Hello and Happy New Year! Today I'm sharing the first chapter for my upcoming release, Alpha's Desire - Book 1 in the Alpha Omega Force series. This chapter was written to the Top Gun Anthem by Harold Faltermeyer. Yes, Top Gun is one of the inspirations for the story. No, I'm not even a little ashamed of that. I hope you enjoy reading!
Space stretched so far into the distance mathematicians had gone insane trying to calculate the vastness, while philosophers spent their lives theorizing over the meaning of its infinite reach. Rashan did neither. As he flew his jet, he scanned for signs of movement, splitting his attention between the radar and looking directly out the window in front of him. There was nothing there. Nothing but deep, inky black and the glow of distant stars.
He spoke quietly, the microphone in his helmet transmitting his voice to the rest of his squad over the communication link. "I think this is going to be a peaceful and uneventful patrol." His squad mate's response exploded in his ear as soon as he finished.
Rashan grinned at Waylan's vocal disappointment. It was expected, as was the response that followed.
"Any day that we don't have to directly engage with pirates or the Varnos is a good day," Lieutenant Sasha Jemison calmly said.
Rashan understood her viewpoint. No matter how good they were as fighter pilots, battles were dangerous, and they risked their lives in each one. Still, he too was a little disappointed they'd be returning to the ship without seeing anything but space dust.
However, a blip suddenly appeared on Rashan's radar. Followed by another. Then two more. "Guys. We've got company."
"Looks like you jinxed us, Rashan," Tony said.
Already getting into the mindset for a fire fight, Rashan grinned and answered his best friend without much remorse. "Sorry about that."
"Don't be sorry!" Waylan cut in. "I need some action."
"You're such a cowboy," Rashan said with a snort. He teased his friend, but secretly he was glad the Varnos had shown up.
"Stay on me and wait to see what they do. They might stay far enough outside the transport lane to avoid violating the Guion Accords, and pass by us."
Following his lieutenant's instructions, Rashan banked around slightly, staying on Sasha's left as they flew to meet the approaching space crafts. It was unlikely they were friendlies. Space travel was heavily regulated in this section of the Guion Galaxy, and they would have been informed of any expected traffic in this section before the start of their patrol. Which meant it was either pirates or unsanctioned rebels from the Varnos Federation. They'd find out soon who they were dealing with. Once they were in range for a hailing frequency, the lieutenant got on the line.
"Attention! You are approaching a restricted travel lane, protected by the Zareen Earth Alliance Force. Identify yourself for travel approval or change course immediately. Action will be taken if you do not comply."
Flying at a steady pace, his hands light on the controls, Rashan waited for the response to Sasha's order. When it came, it was in a heavily accented voice filled with loathing.
"Shut up, earthling scum."
"Well, that answers that," Rashan offered dryly.
"Yes, it does," Sasha agreed. "Engage but remember, we are not the aggressors. If they attempt to retreat, let them."
"You got it, boss." Rashan pushed up on the accelerator and his jet shot forward, streaking toward the line of small black ships. His radar signaled a shot coming at him a few seconds before he saw it himself. Yanking the controls, he tilted his craft onto the left wing. He avoided the hit but it shot so close underneath him his jet shuddered from the blowback.
Quickly righting himself, Rashan locked onto his target, firing rapid blasts from the gun ports mounted on the front of his wings. His shots connected, and a second later a plume of smoke rose up, stark white against the black of space. The Varnos jet spun and wobbled before steadying itself enough to limp behind its fellow rebels. After that, they all retreated.
Rashan shook his head in disgust as he watched the blips on the radar move farther and farther away before blinking out. "That was pointless."
Waylan laughed. "At least we won."
"So easily I don't even know why they bothered," Tony said in annoyance.
"We'll patrol for another twenty to make sure they've really gone before we return to the ship."
"Roger that," Rashan said with a nod.
For the rest of the patrol, it remained quiet, with no sightings other than a registered cargo ship. So precisely twenty minutes later, they turned to head for home, the Galaxy Ship Marion 3. The ship was massive, as long as three football fields and several levels high. Despite its size, its design was sleek and elegant. The wings flared from its sides in smooth curves while the red-tipped tail rose in a perfect slope. Once they were in sight of their home base, Sasha got back on the comm link.
"Lieutenant Jemison to Flight Command. 29th Star Squadron returning to base. Requesting entrance for four space craft."
"Welcome Back 29th. Permission granted to enter the Marion in gates three and four."
Two of the ship's rear doors for small craft slowly opened, and blinking laser runways guided them in.
Rashan throttled back and flew forward slowly, taking entrance three on the left. Even at his decelerated speed, he was still flying too fast to stop on his own. The arresting wire caught his tail hook, pulling him to a complete stop on the lift before he shot back out into space on the other side.
Rashan started shutting down the weapons system as the lift rose, taking him up to the flight deck. The lift stopped, locking into place with a metallic bang. He rolled forward slowly, driving along the lit path until he reached his assigned bay. After completing his post-flight check, he popped the canopy open and activated the exit ladder.
Once he hit the ground, he gave the gleaming blue jet a small salute. "Thanks for keeping me safe, babe." He pulled off his helmet and waited for Tony, who was exiting his jet in the bay next to him. Tony took his helmet off as he walked over, revealing short, wavy black hair, smooth brown skin, and a close-cropped beard. He flashed a grin at Rashan, his dark eyes lit with amusement.
"You've been flying for two years and you're still talking to your mech?"
Hello! Since it's National Kissing Day, I thought I'd share Sam and Ryan's first kiss. It might not be the most tender, but trust Sam to give Ryan what he needs.
“Have you been happy holding on to your control when you’re being dominated?”
Ryan shook his head again. He glanced down for a moment. “Actually, I’ve been miserable,” he said as he looked back up. Sam’s expression softened with sympathy as he came towards him.
“Baby, it’s time you stopped being miserable.” Sam cupped Ryan’s cheek, his thumb gently stroking his jaw. “Tonight, you’ll kneel at my feet and start learning what it feels like to truly submit.”
Ryan looked up at Sam with his eyes wide. “Okay,” he whispered. A flush crawled up his neck and he dropped his eyes to look at the buttons on Sam’s red and blue plaid shirt, unable to believe that soft whisper had come from him. He never talked like that. He-. His thoughts were cut off when Sam brushed that thumb over his lips.
“Stop thinking so hard. Come with me.”
Ryan set his glass down and followed Sam out of the kitchen. They went into the living room and Ryan looked around, expecting to see something set up for a scene. There was nothing. Just the same furniture and TV he’d seen the other time he’d been in the room. Sam was at his back, so he turned to look at him, confusion on his face.
“Looking for the toys?”
“I don’t need them.” Sam slid a hand into his hair, gripping it tight and tugging his head back. “You’ll kneel for me without me having to tell you to. And when you do, you’ll feel so much better. Trust me.”
His heart pounding, Ryan stared up at the man telling him that he would make things better for him. Maybe it was crazy, but he trusted him. So he was ready by the time Sam’s lips crashed onto his. The kiss was deep and rough, and Ryan knew without a doubt that this dominant man was in control. Their tongues slid together, and Sam bit his lip, and it was so hot and intense that Ryan’s breath raced, desperate to feel Sam’s hands on him. But Sam didn’t touch him anywhere except the tight grip he still had in his hair. It was driving Ryan crazy. He needed to feel Sam against him.
He arched forward, brushing their chests together. Sam didn’t stop him so Ryan grew bolder, putting his hands on Sam’s lean hips and pulling him close. And that’s when the kisses stopped. Sam looked at him, his normally easy-going expression hard, the grip he had on his hair tightening.
“Who is in control, Ryan?”
Ryan blinked up at Sam, the rest of him frozen in the face of that forceful stare. “You are.”
“That’s right. And did I give you permission to touch me or to move me where you wanted?”
“Then drop your hands, right now.”
Ryan dropped his hands back to his sides. Sam stared at him for a long moment until Ryan lowered his eyes as well. Only then did Sam loosen the hold he had on his hair and tug his face back up for more kisses. They were just as intense as before, but Ryan didn’t make the mistake again of trying to pull Sam closer. His fingers twitched and his body felt as though it were vibrating he wanted to feel Sam against him so bad. But he managed to resist.
Sam finally ended the kiss and pulled back to look at him. He rubbed a thumb over Ryan’s mouth and without even thinking, Ryan kissed it. Sam gave him a slow smile.
“That’s better,” he said.
Ryan’s chest warmed at the praise as Sam stepped around behind him. His hands went to Ryan’s waist and began pulling his shirt from where it was tucked into his waistband. He kept pulling and Ryan took the silent direction, raising his arms over his head so that Sam could remove the shirt. Once it was off, Sam tossed it on the couch, where it landed in a heap. Ordinarily, Ryan would have gone over and folded the shirt neatly. But he was distracted and forgot all about the shirt when Sam’s hands went to his waistband and began opening his pants.
“Take your shoes off,” Sam said.
Ryan followed the order, then stood there, his breathing quick and shallow as Sam slowly pushed his pants down his hips. Sam walked back around to face him, trailing a finger along the edge of his briefs as he went.
“Do you always match your underwear to your clothes?”
Ryan’s face heated, partially with arousal, partially from embarrassment. His briefs were gray to match the short sleeved gray button down he'd been wearing. “No, not always. Just some of the time.” Sam arched an eyebrow, like he didn’t quite believe him.
Sam took a step forward, pressing their chests together. But he kept going, walking Ryan backward until his back was up against the wall.
“Let me see if I can guess the times you do.”
Ryan’s breath hitched as the hand at the waistband of his briefs crept downwards until it cupped his shaft.
“You match them when you’re coming to see me.”
“Yeah.” Ryan sucked in a breath as Sam started stroking him through the soft cotton.
“You match them when you’re in uniform.”
Sam smiled. “And do you have light blue or dark blue?” he asked.
Ryan blushed again. “Both.”
Sam leaned in and kissed him. “You match them anytime you’re going somewhere nice or important.”
“Yeah.” Sam leaned in again until their lips were touching. He didn’t kiss him, just let their lips brush together as he spoke.
“Yeah?” Ryan was barely able to get the word out. His entire focus was on the calloused hand that slipped into his underwear to grasp his bare cock. Sam pumped him slowly as he asked his next question.
“Would it be safe to say that you match your briefs to your clothes nearly all the time?”
“I…I guess so,” he managed to get out between gasping breaths. Sam laughed softly before kissing him again. He took his hand away from his cock, but before the whimper of protest in Ryan’s throat could be voiced, he’d pressed their groins close, working his hips so that their cocks rubbed together. Ryan gasped again as Sam grasped his wrists, pulling them over his head and holding them against the wall.
“I like that you’re so precise that you match your underwear to your clothes,” he said as he brushed kisses over the sensitive skin of his neck. “I like that you’re sort of embarrassed to admit it.”
Ryan shuddered as Sam sucked a small bite over his pulse point.
“I like that you’re so neat you wanted to fold that shirt when I threw it, but you were so turned on that you let it go and forgot about it.” Sam pulled back to look at him. “I like you.”
Sam moved to grip Ryan’s wrists with one hand, the other slowly moving back down his body to push his briefs over his hips and down his legs.
“And because I like you, I’ll be your teacher.”
I think Sam is going to be a very good teacher for Ryan. ;-) You can check out the rest of their story in The Detective's Pleasure, on sale this weekend at Amazon for .99. Enjoy National Kissing Day!
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Hello and happy National Donut Day. I didn't know that was a thing until this morning. But since I'm now aware, I thought I'd share with you a scene from Bad Boys Need Love Too, where Joseph and Gage enjoy donuts together. It's NSFW, so you probably don't want to read it on your computer at work. Enjoy!
Sunday morning, Joseph woke to sunlight warming his face. He was lying on his front, his head turned towards the window. Gage lay next to him, on his front as well, his arm a heavy weight draped over Joseph’s back. He was tempted to lay there and fall back asleep to the sound of Gage’s soft snores, but his stomach was growling.
He turned over, dislodging Gage’s arm. When he was free, he sat up. His movements woke Gage, who groaned and tried to pull him back down.
“Why are you awake? It's Sunday. Go back to sleep.”
Joseph laughed. “You are definitely not a morning person.”
Gage opened one eye to look at him. “After two weeks of sleeping together, you're just now figuring that out?”
Joseph smiled. He and Gage had indeed been back together for two weeks now. They'd spent nearly every night together, splitting their time between each other's homes. This morning they were in Gage’s large bedroom. And as usual Gage was reluctant to be dragged out of sleep.
Gage raised his hand to rub across his stomach. “You're always hungry. Where do you put it all?”
Joseph got out of the bed. “Shut up. I want donuts.” He bent over to grab his jeans from the floor. Gage whistled.
“Oh yeah, that's where you put it all.”
Joseph turned back around to see Gage grinning at him wickedly. He arched a brow. “You complaining?”
Gage shook his head. “Hell no.”
Joseph continued getting dressed and pulled his hair back into a sloppy ponytail. “I didn't think so.” Then he cursed. “Shit, I forgot you drove me over here last night. Any chance I can convince you to get out of bed and take me to get some donuts?”
Gage stretched and pulled the covers up his bare chest. “I'm not getting up. Take the Indian.”
Joseph’s eyes popped wide. “Are you serious?”
Gage shrugged. “Yeah. I trust you. Keys are on the rack next to the garage door in the kitchen.”
Joseph grinned with excitement and started out of the room. Gage called him back.
“Hey. There's a helmet for you on the shelf out there.”
Joseph looked at Gage in surprise. “Thank you.” Gage waved him off and he went bounding down the stairs.
Down in the garage Joseph saw Gage’s three motorcycles. But he ignored two of them and went for the Indian Chief Dark Horse. He couldn't believe Gage had said he could ride his motorcycle. Joseph ran a palm over the muted colors of the headdress logo. The rest of the bike was a rich black. It looked strong and solid as it sat there, a perfect match to its owner.
Joseph swung his leg over and mounted the bike. He'd found the key and a shiny black retro-looking helmet just where Gage had said they'd be. The helmet was obviously new and fit his head perfectly. He started the bike and it came roaring to life. Wheeling it over to the garage door, he hit the button to open it, drove through, and put in the code to close it again. Joseph didn't even try to hold back his grin as the big bike rumbled beneath him. He just revved it up and drove off.
Gage looked towards the door as he heard Joseph coming up the stairs. He breezed into the room, bringing the scent of fresh air, motorcycle exhaust and sugar in with him. Joseph jumped on the bed, straddling his waist.
“I love that bike. The ride is so smooth and easy. And it just rumbles, deep and throaty. The power in it was awesome as I was cruising along. And the bike is just cool, especially all dressed in black like that. I swore I could hear Foghat's Slow Ride playing somewhere in the atmosphere.”
“I would say you've never had anything that powerful between your thighs, but you've had me,” Gage teased. He liked that Joseph enjoyed his bike so much.
Joseph rolled his eyes and dug into the white paper bag for a donut. He bit into the pastry and moaned. “Chocolate icing.” He licked his lips. “Yummy.”
Gage folded his arms behind his head and watched Joseph, still on top of him, eating that donut.
“Are you going to offer me any?” he asked when there was only one bite left.
Joseph looked at the piece of donut in his hand and then down at him. “Nope. You should have gotten up and come with me.” Then he popped it in his mouth.
Gage smacked him on the ass, making him jump. “If I'd gone with you, you wouldn't have gotten to ride my bike.”
Joseph grinned as he pulled out another donut, this one glazed. “Oh yeah. Forgot about that.” He held the sugary treat up to his mouth for Gage to take a bite.
They shared the next two donuts, Gage laying there and letting Joseph feed him. When the last crumb was gone, Gage reached for his hand. Pulling it up to his mouth, he slowly licked the sugared icing from his fingers. Joseph watched him with those gorgeous green eyes so he made a show of it, darting his tongue out in teasing little laps.
His eyes slid shut as Gage sucked a finger into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it before he bit down on the fleshy pad. Joseph made a soft little sound of surprise, his hips jerking in his lap. Gage smoothed a palm up Joseph’s denim clad thigh, feeling the warm skin and hard muscle beneath the material. He curved his hand around to cup Joseph’s ass, Joseph subtly grinding against him as he did. He called his lover's name.
When he opened his eyes and looked down at him, Gage told him what he wanted him to do.
“Take your shirt off.”
Joseph obeyed him, pulling his t-shirt over his head and dropping it to the floor. Gage traced his fingers over his well-defined abs, smoothing his palms up to the pads of muscle on his chest. Gage smiled to himself. He might hate that fancy gym Joseph went to, but he loved what it did for his body.
Gage wrapped a hand around the back of Joseph’s neck, tugging him down until their lips met. They kissed, their tongues slowly and softly playing together. Gage stroked Joseph’s ponytail, winding the curls around his fingers as he lightly sucked at his bottom lip. He pulled the band free from his lover’s hair and the silky strands fell in a dark curtain around them.
The kiss went on, sunlight filtering through the cloak of Joseph’s hair, Joseph sighing into his mouth. Gage pulled back and looked up into his lover's eyes. His pretty, gold and green eyes. He would be careful with Joseph, and never hurt him. He promised himself that. Gage stroked his thumb over Joseph’s mouth.
“I didn't think you could taste any sweeter.”
Joseph smiled. “Now are you glad I woke you up for donuts?”
Gage made a noise that was a non-answer and pushed Joseph up until he was sitting upright again. Looking down, he saw Joseph’s erection pressing against the front of his jeans. He rubbed his palm there, feeling how hard he was. Joseph bit his lip, his hips moving forward slightly. Gage watched him as he slowly popped the button loose and pulled the zipper down.
Joseph hadn't put his underwear back on before he’d gotten dressed to leave, so his bare cock peeked out from his opened jeans. Gage teased his hard shaft with one finger. Joseph pushed his hips forward more insistently this time, forcing his cock to come out of his jeans a little more.
Gage pushed Joseph up off his lap and pulled his jeans down hard to get the tight fitting material just low enough to bare his ass. He was naked, so all he had to do was shove the sheet covering him out of the way. Gage reached over to the nightstand for the bottle of lube. He covered himself in the liquid, then worked a slick finger up into Joseph to get him ready. Joseph was squirming in his lap, constricted by the jeans around the tops of his thighs.
“Gage. I can't move like this.”
Gage grabbed Joseph by his narrow hips and started easing him down his shaft. “That's what you get for wearing these tight ass jeans.”
“You like them.”
“I like the way your ass looks in 'em.”
Joseph closed his eyes and exhaled hard as Gage brought him firmly down onto his cock. “Same thing.”
Gage laughed and smoothed his hands up Joseph’s back. He was all the way inside his lover, but he didn't start moving yet. He picked the bottle of lube up and taking Joseph’s hand, squeezed some into his palm. Joseph immediately grasped his shaft and started stroking himself. Gage watched while he kept a grip on Joseph’s hips with both hands, pushing him up then slamming him back down onto his cock, thrusting his own hips up to meet him each time. Joseph couldn't move restrained by his jeans the way he was, but Gage was still enjoying feeling him clench around his shaft.
Joseph's eyes were closed, his head thrown back. A particularly long moan came from him when he squeezed his cock hard. Gage stopped moving. Joseph was still moaning and stroking himself when Gage pushed him off and tossed him to the side. He landed facing away from him.
Joseph looked over his shoulder. “Hey! What was that?”
Gage smirked. “You weren't paying enough attention to me.”
Joseph’s eyes narrowed. “You're the one started this with my pants on me so that I could hardly move.”
“That's no excuse. Show me you like what I'm doing to you. Not what you're doing to yourself.”
“You're kidding me, right? You're jealous of my hand?” he asked, disbelieving laughter in his voice.
Gage grinned. “Yep.” He yanked Joseph close against him until they were pressed together, his front to Joseph’s back. Now he pushed Joseph’s pants all the way down, Joseph toeing off his shoes so he could take them completely off. “If your hand is making you feel that good, what do you need me and my dick for?”
Joseph laughed. “You know I want it.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He grabbed Joseph’s hands, holding them up over his head, and pushed back inside him. Before he even started moving Joseph let out the loudest moan he'd ever heard.
“Ooooh, Gage! That's the stuff right there!”
Gage buried his face in the crook of Joseph’s neck, laughing into his hair. He pulled his hips back and slid back into him slowly. Joseph kept up with his obviously fake moans.
“Yeah, baby! I was so wrong to want my hand on my dick. Bad hand! Bad me!”
Gage was nearly howling with laughter now. He'd never laughed like this during sex. “You obnoxious little fucker.”
Joseph looked back over his shoulder. “I believe you're the one doing all the fucking.”
“That's right,” he said with a grin. He kissed Joseph, pushing his tongue into his mouth. He thrust into his ass hard and Joseph cursed for real that time.
Gage’s laughter was smug now as he fucked Joseph, listening to his moans change from ultra-fake to genuinely passionate. He glided into him again and again, still holding Joseph’s arms up over his head. He pressed their mouths back together, sucking and biting at his soft tongue and pouty bottom lip.
Joseph was breathing hard, writhing against him. He twisted his body, throwing his leg over Gage’s. Gage pushed his thigh between Joseph’s legs, lightly pressing it up against his balls. They were hot and swollen against his skin and Joseph groaned into his mouth as he rubbed his thigh back and forth against them.
Gage finally released his grip on Joseph’s wrists, bringing his hand down so that together they grasped his cock. They both stroked him, Joseph’s hand on top, his on the bottom, their fingers knocking together as they pumped.
“I'm about to come,” Joseph breathed out.
“Of course you are, now that you're touching yourself.”
Joseph half laughed – half groaned. Gage doubled the force of his thrusts, fucking him hard and fast, his hips slapping against Joseph’s ass. His spine was tingling, his balls as tight as Joseph’s felt against his leg.
“If you make me come first I'll let you ride the Indian again.”
He'd barely finished speaking when Joseph started pushing his ass back and forth in rhythm with his thrusts. He laughed at that quick response, but it quickly changed to a groan as Joseph pressed his ass tight against him, grinding and clenching hard on his cock. He could have held on a little longer, but he didn't.
Gage let go, relishing the feel of his orgasm tingling and racing up his shaft until he released deep into his lover. His cock was still throbbing with delicious aftershocks, but he gave his attention to Joseph, jerking him off swiftly, making him moan and come in a hot rush over their hands.
Joseph took a deep breath and let it out in a loud sigh. “Donuts, riding that bike, and sex with you. Three great ways to start the day.”
Gage lightly ran his fingers over Joseph’s hip, making him shiver. “Which was your favorite part?”
Joseph was quiet for a moment before he answered. “I'm gonna have to go with riding the Indian.”
Gage laughed and smacked him on the ass.
I hope you enjoyed that! This little bit remains one of my favorite sexy scenes because they are so gosh darn relaxed, happy and cute. If you'd like to read more of Gage & Joseph's story, you can check out them out in Bad Boys Need Love Too.
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“It’s a good thing we’ve got this entire floor booked or people would be complaining to the front desk about the noise.”
Tré Montgomery laughingly agreed with his friend The Chancellor as he looked around the room. Nearly the entire roster and crew for Frontier Professional Wrestling was staying on the sixth floor of their downtown Miami hotel. Their group was a little rowdier than usual because they were celebrating Chance’s retirement from the wrestling ring. After his final match earlier that evening, Chance had requested that they chill at the hotel to celebrate rather than going out to a bar or club.
Of course, chill had turned into a full-blown party. A couple of people had gone on beer and food runs, the room next door had an enthusiastic NBA 2K18 PlayStation tournament taking place, while a big-budget superhero movie played on the TV in the room across from them. There were wrestlers and crew out in the hall talking and laughing as they went from room to room. Tré and Chance sat at a table in the corner of Tré’s hotel room, where someone had hooked up portable karaoke.
“You knew this would happen,” Tré said.
Chance shook his head at two of their fellow wrestlers loudly singing to an old Guns N’ Roses song that blared from a laptop connected to the TV. “Yeah, I did.”
Tré watched the two for a moment, before turning to look at his friend. “I’ll miss you in the ring, old man.”
“Don’t you start. Like I told Devin, I’m not going anywhere. The only thing that’s changed is now I get to wear actual pants to work.”
Tré laughed again. “Don’t pretend you won’t miss putting on the spandex.”
Chance rolled his eyes at that and changed the subject. “How are things with you and your partner? Got any ideas for storylines you want to give to your new booker? Now that I’m in charge of the promotion’s creative direction I can actually do something with the crazy ideas everyone is always coming up with.”
Tré looked out into the hall at the partner Chance was referring to: Brandon Wilkes, his tag team partner at FPW. The lean, young black man slouched against the wall talking to another wrestler. His thick, shoulder-length brown hair was pulled up into a puff at the back of his head, the style emphasizing the sharp line of his jaw and full lips. The harsh, bright hallway lights didn’t detract from the warm glow of his golden-brown skin. Tré always noticed those things about his gorgeous partner, even though he shouldn’t. And Chance usually called him out on it. He rushed to answer Chance’s question in an effort to hopefully keep it from happening yet again.
“Things are fine.” He paused for a second to reconsider. “Actually, he’s been a little distant lately. Too preoccupied to sit down and come up with any potential feuds for us, but other than that, things are fine.”
“You guys aren’t having problems, are you?”
“No. We’re solid. He just looks like he’s got something on his mind. He’ll spit it out when he’s ready.”
“All right then. You know him better than anyone.” Chance took a sip of his beer and casually glanced off to the side. “So, you guys haven’t discussed anything new?”
Tré wasn’t fooled by the studied nonchalance. Apparently, his attempt to head Chance off hadn’t worked. “We’re not going there tonight, Chancellor.”
“You’re right. It’s a night for celebration. Not for talking about why you should speak up on something that might make you want to celebrate.”
Tré pressed his lips tightly closed to keep from responding to that comment. People in love always wanted everyone around them to be in love as well, so he couldn’t fault his friend too much for pushing for something that was never going to happen.
He was saved from having to respond to the older wrestler’s comment when Devin walked into the room. A smile lit up Chance’s face when he noticed his lover approaching. The tall redhead gave Tré a quick grin before looking down at Chance.
“I’m tired. Let’s go to bed,” Devin said as he held out his hand toward his boyfriend.
Tré snorted in amused disbelief. Devin didn’t look the slightest bit tired. He practically bounced on his toes, his eyes bright and excited. He might want to go to bed, but it wasn’t for sleep.
Chance’s lips twitched, holding back a smile as he let the younger man pull him to his feet. Fingers linked with Devin’s, he looked back at Tré. “Thanks for the party. I’ll catch you in the morning.”
“You’re welcome. Have a good night,” he said as he saluted them both with his beer.
Tré watched as Chance followed Devin from the room. He never would have thought that Chance would be the one out, happy, and in a relationship. But Devin had stormed into FPW earlier that year, and Chance had fallen in love with the young wrestler before he’d known what hit him. Tré was happy for him. Still, a thorn of jealousy poked at his insides.
Chance had a romantic partner. Even better, it was someone in the business who understood what the life was like and would be with him as they traveled across the country. Tré wanted that too, almost desperately. He looked at Brandon again, out in the hallway, laughing at whatever Kenji had said. His smile lit up his whole face. Tré couldn’t help but smile in response, even though it was bittersweet. Brandon was his partner. His tag team partner. Tré was satisfied with that. He really was. Really.
A week after the Summer Showdown pay-per-view, Brandon and some of the other boys on the FPW roster hit up a New Orleans gym for a pre-show workout. Brandon leaned against the chest fly machine, bobbing his head to the music playing over the loudspeakers while Tré pressed out his reps. Brandon liked this place. It was right in the middle of the spectrum with hard-core gyms on one side—with their screaming rock music, bare walls and the air turned up so high he had to jog in place to stay warm in between sets—and fitness centers on the other—where you got a dozen judgmental glares if you let the weights clang too loud.
As Brandon waited his turn, he watched Devin and Chance working out together across the gym. Devin appeared happy and full of energy as always. He’d been that way ever since Brandon had first met him back on the indies a few years ago. Chance on the other hand, was different. Whereas before he’d always been serious and quiet, now he was smiling and more talkative. Of course, most of those smiles were directed toward Devin, but it was nice to see the wrestling icon happy. Brandon straightened as Tré got up and wiped down the seat to let him take his turn. When he noticed where Brandon was looking, he grinned and shook his head.
“Those two love birds.”
“Still crazy that The Chancellor is out and with Devin,” Brandon said as he sat and adjusted the weights.
“Must be nice though.” The weights rose with a hiss as he pressed out his first rep. “To be with the person you love. Especially in this business.”
“Yeah. Pro wrestling isn’t exactly known for creating lasting relationships. I think most tag teams last longer than the majority of wrestling marriages.”
Brandon continued with his set, enjoying the pleasant burn of his muscles working at the edge of their limit. Tré watched the two men they were discussing, and Brandon watched him. Although, he made sure not to be obvious he was staring at his friend. He’d become pretty good over the three years they’d been a tag team at watching Tré on the sly. And he looked often because he liked what he saw.
Tré was tall, several inches taller than him, with smooth, dark skin. His low haircut and goatee were perfectly maintained from weekly trips to the barber shop. Brandon loved his partner’s well-groomed style. His own hair was usually a carefree mess and his jaw was always scruffy. But Tré looked like he was about to model for an expensive watch ad at any moment. His muscles and build were perfect, thick and powerful without being bulky. He’d been a basketball power forward throughout high school and college, and it showed in his physique.
Brandon felt blessed by the gods, because four nights a week, he got to see his partner’s amazing body covered in nothing more than spandex underwear and boots. He appreciated the gift, but he also liked the way Tré looked right now dressed in a muscle tank and basketball shorts. The loose, dark blue fabric teased Brandon every time it molded to Tré’s firm ass and powerful thighs. And he’d always had a thing for the long line and defined cut of Tré’s calves. A silly thing to focus on, but the smooth skin and hard muscle there drew his eye. Probably because they touched so much working together in the ring, but that was one spot—other than the obvious no touch areas—that he’d never had the opportunity to get his hands on. It was like forbidden fruit, there to taunt him. Visible and within reach, but unattainable.
Snorting a laugh to himself at his obsession with Tré’s calves, Brandon let the weights come to a full stop. Finished with his set, he got his partner’s attention by nudging him with his foot. “We’re so close, we might as well be married. Except neither of us is putting out.”
“Then it is like we’re married,” Tré said in a dry tone.
Brandon laughed at his partner’s humor. “Do you think you’ll ever be in a relationship like those two?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know. With somebody in the business.”
Tré looked away. “Who knows? Don’t see how I’m supposed to meet someone when I’m in a different city nearly every night.”
“Maybe I could help you out there.”
Tré’s head snapped back around, shoulders tense and eyes locked on Brandon’s. Brandon didn’t blink, hoping that his longtime partner would finally see through his teasing to what he was really trying to say. But after a moment, Tré relaxed and gave him a lopsided smile.
“Funny. What are you gonna do, send some fan a DM and ask them if they want to hook up with me?”
Brandon’s face felt frozen, but he managed a smile of his own. “Yeah, I’ll just slide into the DMs of the cutest fanboy I see on Twitter.”
Now Tré laughed. “Like you know what’s cute.”
“I’m hurt that you don’t trust my ability to know what you like.”
Tré’s smile softened. “I trust you.”
Brandon’s stomach swooped at the gently curved lips and sparkling dark eyes of that smile. He hesitated for a second, trying to decide if now was the time. Confessing his feelings in the middle of a gym wasn’t ideal, but he’d been hinting and hoping for over a year. And time was running out. His heart pounding, Brandon tried to think of the best thing to say. Hints hadn’t worked so far. Should he blurt it out? Or maybe asking Tré to step outside for some privacy was the way to go in case his revelation lead to an embarrassing rejection. He stared up at Tré, his heart in his throat, sweat that had nothing to do with his workout trickling down his spine.
A small frown creased Tré’s brow. “Is everything okay?”
With a defeated mental sigh, Brandon punked out. “Yeah. Just tired.”
Tré nodded in sympathy. “I understand that. Those three days home are never long enough.”
Before Brandon could respond, Slade came over. The wrestler’s long black hair gleamed under the fluorescent lights as he struck up a conversation with Tré. Frustrated, and wanting to punch himself for being afraid, Brandon moved on to the next machine.
Later that night, Tré waited in the backstage area of the New Orleans arena with Brandon. Their tag match against The Black River Boys was up in a few minutes. As always, he and Brandon were dressed in nearly identical outfits. They both wore candy apple red trunks with Pittsburgh Power Machine in shiny black and silver lettering across the ass. Their black sleeveless hoodies had their individual names on the back, with PPM in shimmering red and silver stitched over the left breast. The only difference in gear was their footwear. Tré wore traditional calf-high lace-up boots, while Brandon preferred knee-length kick pads over wrestling shoes.
Tré had seen Brandon in their brief wrestling costume hundreds of times over the three years they’d tagged together. But he still admired how amazing his partner looked. His bare arms glistened with oil under the lights, the muscles in his biceps sharp and defined. And his thighs… Tré stared, watching the muscles flex under smooth skin as Brandon went through his pre-match stretches. His feet spread wide, Brandon bent at the waist, arms extended along his legs to grip his ankles. Tré didn’t outwardly react to the unintentionally provocative pose, but in his head, it was basically a parade of panting, drooling heart-eye gifs.
He didn’t want to perv on his partner. So, while he might look when Brandon didn’t see him, he’d never do or say anything to make him uncomfortable. And that was why he could never speak up about his feelings for his friend. Coming on to him could jeopardize their friendship, and Tré didn’t want that. He’d rather hide his attraction than do anything to risk losing Brandon in his work and personal life.
Tré was still staring when Brandon straightened and looked over his shoulder. He grinned when he met Tré’s eye.
Embarrassed heat crawled up Tré’s neck. “Yep. Let’s do it.” He looked away after answering and tugged his hood up to hide in case his expression betrayed that embarrassment. His face heated further when he caught sight of Chance watching him.
“Smooth,” Chance teased with a grin and a thumbs up.
Tré responded by giving his friend the middle finger.
Holding back a laugh, Chance pointed at the sound guy to queue up their music, then gave Tré and Brandon the signal to go out.
They went through the curtain and walked down the ramp together, a little swagger to their step as they kept pace with the happy hip-hop beat of their theme song. The music was reminiscent of something that would be played at a summertime barbecue, and it always had the crowd up on their feet and dancing. Brandon pointed at fans in the audience, walking close to the rail to give out high fives. Tré played it cool, letting his partner work the crowd.
In the ring, The Black River Boys, Payne and Gnash, stood waiting. Their long, stringy black hair hung in their eyes as they sneered and watched Tré and Brandon strip out of their ring jackets. Once the Pittsburgh Power Machine music stopped, the ref called for the bell. Tré stepped back through the ropes to stand in his corner, letting Brandon start the match. To get the crowd hyped, Brandon went after Payne with a flurry of kicks, forcing the bigger man to put up his arms in an attempt to shield his face. But both men knew how to work a crowd, and the fans couldn’t cheer for Brandon to climb to victory if he was on top the entire match.
Just when it seemed as though Brandon would win it for them a minute in, Payne came roaring back and slammed into him with a flying tackle. Tré winced as Brandon’s much smaller frame went down hard in the middle of the ring. That landing on canvas stretched over a thin pad with unforgiving plywood beneath would probably bruise his partner’s back.
Brandon rolled to his front, the light catching the sparkling letters on the rear of his trunks as he slapped the mat in frustration. Tré held back his grin when the audience groaned in disappointment at having what looked like a sure victory snatched away. His partner was one of the best at gaining a crowd’s sympathy.
Brandon’s ability to connect with the crowd was one of the many reasons there was no one else in the business Tré would rather tag with. He would never let it show on his face in front of a live crowd—hell, he wouldn’t even let Brandon know—but working with his partner was the best part of his career. He didn’t remember the day it happened, or even the city, but he’d been standing in this exact spot, watching Brandon flip across the ring, wrestling his heart out, when he’d first fallen for him. And every night since then, he’d kept his feelings hidden.
Tré got ready, knowing Brandon was about to make his way to their corner for a tag. He held his hand out for Brandon to slap his palm, then stepped into the ring to have his own go at Payne.
They were fairly evenly matched in size, but Payne wrestled like a berserker while Tré used calculated power moves. He stopped Payne’s wild charge by grabbing him in wrist lock, twisting his arm up behind him and slamming the big man down hard. Payne quickly retaliated, knocking Tré’s legs out from under him with a chop block. They were both on the mat now, and Tré had to struggle to gain the upper hand. He managed it, but when he wasn’t able to get a pin after several minutes of being in control, he tagged Brandon back in to let him have another turn.
Once again, he stood on the ring apron, watching as Brandon worked against Gnash. The bigger man flung Brandon across the ring, where he crashed into the corner turnbuckle. The impact made Brandon stagger backward and fall to the mat. He’d taken a lot of punishment already, and now their opponent ran over and started stomping on him. The crowd erupted in a mix of booing at Gnash and cheering for Brandon to get back to his feet. Brandon rolled, dodging some of the kicks before struggling upright.
Once he made it up to one knee the crowd started cheering even harder. Brandon pushed out at Gnash, making him stumble off balance and giving himself enough room to make it upright. Spinning around, he caught Gnash on the jaw with a high kick. Then Brandon collapsed again, although this time he was facing their corner.
Tré leaned over the ropes, reaching for his tag partner. “C’mon, man! You can make it!”
Brandon lifted his head to look at him and started slowly dragging himself across the ring. As Tré waited for his partner to make it to their corner, he couldn’t help but notice that Brandon was gorgeous, even now with his face flushed from exertion and sweat-damp hair hanging over his forehead. What would Brandon do if Tré were to pull him into his arms, assuring him that he was safe as he stroked his hair back, before he went in and exacted revenged on Gnash and Payne? A fantasy. Too far out there even for kayfabe. Not to mention, Brandon would probably be confused as hell, wondering what Tré was doing. Shaking his head, Tré pushed the ridiculous mental image aside. Brandon hadn’t reached him yet, but Gnash had already made it to his feet. He staggered to the other side to tag his own partner in.
Brandon looked over his shoulder at the successful tag. His eyes wide, he pushed himself up and made a desperate flying leap for Tré’s outstretched hand. They slapped palms as Payne came charging across the ring. When Payne saw their tag, he abruptly stopped and took a few nervous steps back.
Tré grinned and stepped through the ropes with deliberate slowness. He was fresh and ready to avenge the punishment his partner had taken. Payne narrowed his eyes and came at him. They both went on the offensive, pummeling each other with blows to the jaw and torso. Tré quickly gained the upper hand. He scooped Payne up and tossed him facedown onto his shoulder, holding him across the waist to keep him from escaping. Then he took three running steps forward before he body slammed the man to the mat right in front of his and Brandon’s corner. While Payne was down and stunned, Tré leaned over, tagged Brandon back in, then stepped back to watch as his partner climbed to the top rope. Brandon held an arm across his torso, still selling the beat down from earlier, but he looked determined. He leaped off the top rope, landing on Payne with a leg drop across his chest.
Payne was pinned with both shoulders down, so the ref ran over and slid onto his belly to count it, his palm slapping the mat three times in a row: one, two, three. When he called for the bell, the crowd cheered even louder at their favorites’ victory.
Their theme music blasted throughout the arena as the announcer got on the mic. “Here are your winners, Tré and Brandon, the Pittsburgh Power Machine!”
Gnash and Payne slunk away while Tré and Brandon celebrated their win in the middle of the ring. They gave each other their team handshake: two quick palm slaps, slide, grip, slide, release, snap, forearm bump.
They rolled to the floor, then went around slapping high fives with everybody sitting ringside. Once they’d made the entire circuit, Tré took Brandon’s arm and slung it over his shoulder so he could help his “injured” partner to the back. The cheers followed them all the way up the ramp, and Brandon gave one last wave before they disappeared from sight.
Behind the curtain, Brandon took his arm from around Tré’s shoulders and rubbed his tailbone. “Fuck, that leg drop. I swear I smush my spine up into my brain every time I do that move.”
Tré looked at his partner with his eyebrows raised. “You what?”
“You know what I mean,” Brandon said with a grin. “It hurts.”
“Sorry, man. Tomorrow night, I’ll make sure to get him up so we can do the Power Tower instead.”
Brandon grabbed Tré’s arm in a hug and fluttered his eyelashes. “Awww, Tré. Thank you. You take such good care of me, making sure I don’t break my ass in the ring.”
Tré rolled his eyes at his partner’s ridiculous teasing. “Shut up and let’s go shower.”
Laughing, Brandon dropped his arm and strolled off ahead. Tré followed behind, admiring Brandon’s smooth walk and the way his sweaty skin gleamed under the lights. Brandon was gorgeous and funny. Tré would give anything for his partner’s teasing to be real so he could take care of him the way he dreamed of doing.
After a quick shower and change into street clothes, it was time to hit the road. Brandon shrugged on his backpack while Tré gripped the handle of his rolling suitcase.
Brandon nodded. “Yeah, let’s go.”
They walked out of the back of the arena into the warm and humid Louisiana night. As usual, a crowd of fans waited behind the fence that surrounded the parking lot. They waved and yelled for the wrestlers to come over.
“You feel like signing tonight?” Brandon asked his partner.
They went toward the fence and the fans immediately started cheering. Brandon and Tré took a few selfies, signed whatever was put in front of them, and reached over the fence to high five little kids. Brandon was signing one of their official eight by tens when a fan asked him a question.
“Do you think you guys will ever break up?”
Brandon calmly raised an eyebrow at the question. They were asked this at least once a week by fans or media. He gave his standard response, accompanied by a mischievous grin. “Why would we go and break up a good thing?”
The girl smiled at his answer and asked for a picture with them. He and Tré both crowded in, and the girl turned with her back to them and held the phone up so she could get her shot. When she was done, Brandon jumped up on Tré’s back, wrapping his arms around his partner’s shoulders and his legs around Tré’s waist. They were so in tune with each other and Brandon had done this so many times before that Tré didn’t even flinch. He simply adjusted his stance to manage Brandon’s weight, gripping him under one leg with the hand that wasn’t holding his suitcase.
“We’re partners for life,” Brandon said to the fan.
The girl had a comeback ready for him. “Or life partners,” she said with a wink.
Brandon laughed as the girl raised her phone to take another picture. “Let’s go, partner.”
Tré shook his head and headed over to their rental, still carrying him on his back. When he popped the locks open, Brandon hopped down to the ground. He tossed his bag in the trunk after Tré slung his in, then went around to get in the passenger seat. The crowd at the fence hadn’t left yet, as they were hoping for more wrestlers to come over. Brandon waved at them when they pulled out of the parking lot, then settled back into his seat as they hit the highway.
The first thirty minutes of the drive were quiet. They each needed the time to decompress after the frantic activity of a night at the arena. Eventually Brandon pulled his phone from his pocket. He opened up Twitter first. As expected, his notifications were out of control. He started scrolling through them, stopping when half of a particular picture caught his eye. Brandon pressed his thumb to it to go full screen, snorting a laugh when he read the caption.
“That last girl we took pictures with posted them on Twitter already. She got one of me up on your back and captioned it, I ship it.”
Tré laughed too but didn’t take his eyes from the road.
They both knew what shipping was. Fans put wrestlers in fictional romantic relationships and drew fan art and wrote fanfiction about them. As tag team partners, they were probably shipped more than a lot of people on the roster. Brandon took a screen shot of the tweet so he wouldn’t have to look for it later and lowered his phone to his lap. “I’ll show it to you when we stop.”
Tré shook his head. “I’m cool.”
“Who do you think they have as the top in our ship?”
Now Tré took his eyes off the road to glance over at him. “What?”
“In those fics, they normally have one guy as the top. Do you think it’s you or me? It’s probably you since you’re bigger than me.”
“You’re kidding me with this, right?”
“Nope. I could look up a couple of fics and find out.” He brought his phone back up.
“Okay, Google. Tré and Brandon Fanfiction dot net.”
Tré laughed. “Don’t you dare. I don’t think we need to know the answer to that.”
Brandon gave an exaggerated sigh and closed out the Google app that had just opened. “Party pooper.”
“You’re crazy,” Tré said with another laugh. “How about we spend our time coming up with some new moves?”
“We switched to that new finisher not too long ago. Alex probably won’t let us change it so soon.”
“Not a new finish. But maybe something we can use to get the crowd hype in the middle of the match.”
“Let me guess. It’ll be dangerous for me?” In their team dynamic, he was the risk taker and Tré was the power. It worked great and let them play off each other’s strengths in the ring.
“Not really. I was thinking I’d do a powerbomb and you’d come in right after with a frog splash.”
“Sounds good. The power and the excitement. But you know frog splashes hurt to land, right? Oh, what am I saying. Of course, you don’t. You’ve never jumped off anything in your life.”
Tré flashed him a smug grin before he turned back to the road. “That’s right. And I plan to keep it that way.”
It made sense that Tré wasn’t known for flashy, high flying moves. Unlike Brandon’s slim, five-eleven frame, Tré was six-three and two hundred forty pounds of muscle. He wasn’t exactly built to go flying around a wrestling ring. Brandon was fine with that. It was one of the things that made their tag team special; they each had their specialized roles to play. Besides, he liked every single one of Tré’s muscles. Too bad he couldn’t figure out a way to tell him that.
Talking about shipping might have been a way to ease into it. Maybe he could have sneakily led the conversation from their fictional relationship to the possibility of a real one. But Brandon didn’t want to be a creeper bringing up topping and fics again.
He grew quiet, wondering why this was so hard. They were closer than most people’s romantic relationships; he trusted Tré with his body in the ring. Yet saying a few simple words--I’m into you. I like you. Kiss me—were all more terrifying than back flipping off the top rope to land on an opponent.
“No comeback for that? Are you okay?”
Brandon abruptly got out of his head and gave his attention back to his partner. “I’m letting it slide this time. But only because I think a powerbomb-frog splash combo will look pretty cool.”
Tré laughed, and Brandon smiled at the deep rumble of it. He might never work up the nerve to say the words that would win him Tré as his lover, but no matter what happened or where he went, he’d always be glad he had Tré as his friend.
A few hours later, they reached the company’s selected hotel for the night. Tiredness had kicked in for Brandon about thirty miles back, so as soon they were behind the hotel room door, he let his bag drop to the floor and stripped down to his underwear. As he undressed, he listened to the familiar unzipping of luggage and rustling of clothes as Tré settled in on the other side of the room.
Once Brandon was under the covers and the lights were out, he finally relaxed. It felt like he’d been wearing a mask for weeks, trying to keep up the facade that everything was okay when actually he was anxious and nervous. He suspected Tré knew he had something on his mind, but he wasn’t saying anything. And that frustrated him. He wanted, no he needed his partner to speak up. Because he had a decision to make, and it needed to be made soon.
Whew! These past few weeks in the romance world – or #Romancelandia as we call it on Twitter – have been a doozy. Let’s recap.
With the Santino Hassell issue, the m/m community nearly caved in on itself.
After Cole McCade revealed Sarah Lyons’ comments about not putting black people on covers our community exploded with disbelief at the blatant racism.
The third issue is the fact that there hasn’t been a single Black winner of the RWA Rita awards in the entire existence of the organization. The RWA put out a statement on this, and it spawned lots of conversation on the difficulties authors of color face in publishing.
For this third issue, there hasn’t been much discussion in the m/m community. I’ll admit that I’m not on Facebook much – Twitter is more my jam. But when I logged on I expected to see a lot of discussion on the topic, just as I did with SH and Lyons. Instead, I’ve only seen a few posts from authors like Harper Miller, LaQuette, and Sharita Lira scattered about.
This concerns me. I wonder, does the m/m community think this issue doesn’t affect it, and that’s why there has been near silence on the topic? As we can see from the Sara Lyons emails it absolutely is a thing. Still not sure what that thing is? Let me state it plainly. Authors of Color (AOC) and especially authors of color writing characters of color are at a disadvantage in publishing.
1) We don’t win (often) awards.
2) We’re not heavily promoted. (A prime example is the way black people went bat shit over Black Panther. We don’t often get the chance to be the next Big Thing like Twilight, Fifty Shades and Game of Thrones)
3) We’re not squeeed over by readers and review blogs as much as white authors/characters.
4) Big Five publishers (and smaller pubs as well) don’t often publish us. The Ripped Bodice’s Diversity Report has the numbers on that.
5) We suffer from There Can Only Be One mentality. With this, readers think I already read a black historical I don’t need to read another because it will be the same. Or, all the visibility goes to a few authors of color, elevating them to great popularity while the majority of the rest are ignored.
How does this happen? Well, statements like the ones below are reasons why our genre is struggling with diversity.
“I can’t relate to those characters.”
This comment has been said so often that I’m just going to parrot back the same response that’s always given. If you can relate to vampires, meerkat shifters, omega men with slick butts, or hell even a SWAT team full of gay D/s dudes *cough-cough*, you can relate to people with skin that’s different from yours. I assure you, we’re not aliens. And even aliens are accepted by readers in sci-fi romance.
“I don’t want to read about race problems.”
Not every book featuring people of color (POC) is about race. Some are. But please don’t make that assumption just because there’s brown skin on the cover. And even if racism is mentioned what’s the big deal? We read about other unpleasant topics like domestic violence and gay youth being kicked out of the home, and (hopefully) learn from them. Why can’t racial issues receive that same consideration?
“It should be about the quality of the book. Not the race of the author or characters.”
This comment is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Or actually a big fat dog whistle. Because what it’s really saying is that diverse authors can’t bring the quality and therefore shouldn’t be put up for awards, promoted, etc. Otherwise, why mention quality whenever we discuss including books by authors of color?
The majority of us in the m/m community are women. I’m not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing or ignoring the many transgender men and women and nonbinary people – it’s just a thing. So that means most of us are already reading and writing outside of ourselves. If we can all put ourselves in the headspace to read about two men falling in love, I don’t see why white readers can’t read about people of color – and why non-black people of color can’t read about black characters and so on. Because I, and pretty much every other person of color, have been reading white characters since we first picked up books.
I wrote in a previous blog post about how I didn’t see a black character in a romance novel until I was in high school. Not once have I ever said – I just can’t read this because I can’t relate to this blonde heroine and her blue-eyed lover. We’re expected to read outside of ourselves. All we’re asking is for everyone else to return the favor. How can you return that favor? I’ve got some action items!
Don’t say, “I don’t see color. I just want the story.” I know on the surface this seems like an open-minded way of thinking. But not seeing color erases us. We want to be seen and have our differences acknowledged, accepted and embraced!
And not seeing color often means that we just aren’t seen. Which means you’re going to have to look for us. Don't believe me? Go to Amazon and check out the Top 100 for Gay romance. In that entire bunch, there's one book with a black character on it. You get the same result just typing in gay romance or m/m romance into the search bar. If we’re not sought out, it’s easy to end up with a homogenous book shelf – even when you are open to reading diversely. So take a tiny step. When you type into the search bar on Amazon, add a word to your search. Instead of typing gay contemporary romance try multicultural gay contemporary romance.
Do rec us to your friends and bloggers and ask for us in libraries and bookstores.
Don’t go into our stories expecting to be taught about culture. A Chinese American author writing about a Chinese American hero doesn’t necessarily want to tell the story of their culture. They just might want to write about a Chinese American guy who is at the library, has a meet cute with a quiet, yet well-built branch manager and falls in love. And that’s okay. Our romance novels don’t have to be culture guides. There’s uh… culture guides for that.
Do use context or even hit up Google if there are mentions of things you’re not familiar with. For example, I used to read the heck out of Highland romances. But I had no clue what haggis was and I had to look it up. The word Sassenach drove me crazy because before Google, I couldn’t figure out exactly what it meant. I knew who it referred to, but I thought there might be more meaning behind it since it was always used as an insult.
I’m sure many of you had to look up facts about garderobes for historicals or pick up on the basics of game play for hockey romances. If we can do that for predominantly white stories, we can extend the same courtesy to diverse romance. For example, in my upcoming release In His Corner (hell yeah I’m self-promoting) I write about Brandon’s curly, easily tangled 4B hair. When you get to that scene, just roll with it. Don’t toss it aside because it’s different from your experience.
Don’t assume that there just aren’t any authors of color out there writing m/m romance. Me, my brown face, and the brown faces of many authors I’ve connected with assure you that this isn’t true.
Do use sources like Queer in Color and Women of Color in Romance to find new books to try.
Do ask for recs. The next time you’re in the MM Book Rec group looking for a hurt/comfort romance, ask if there are any featuring characters of color. Or maybe even say Hey, I really like Susan Author. Are there any Authors of Color who have books with tropes and settings like hers? The first couple of times you might get crickets for your response. But as we expand our reading horizons we’ll start having more recs to share.
Don’t refuse to pick up a book because the character’s name is unfamiliar to you, like D’Marcus or Takashi (sorry, my Voltron is showing). A lot of us learned to pronounce Daenerys Targaryen. We can give Rhashan a chance too.
Do show a little variety in the covers/models you promote. For example, if you’re a blogger and you’ve got a sweet header with multiple covers and/or couples but all of them are white? It makes me hesitate to submit a book with multicultural characters to you. Putting up a hot dude with brown skin is like rolling out the welcome mat to authors like me. It lets us know that our books will be welcome and won’t be discounted out of hand or unfairly judged because of the color of the characters’ skin.
In addition to that, if you have one of those shout out days going on like Sexy Saturday or Hot Guy Wednesday, mix it up and put some brown folks in there. If week after week, each of your hot guys is white, that tells me that you don’t find men of color attractive, deserving of love, or worthy of being your hero’s muse. That might not actually be true, but all I can go by is what you demonstrate to me.
Need some help finding Hot Guys of Color? Poke Atom Yang and ask if you can join his Atom’s Asian Hotties Facebook group. Cuz good lord there are some beautiful men posted in there. Or, go to Pinterest and type in sexy black men. You’ll get a plethora of gorgeous results. (Just uh… maybe try not to refer to them as chocolate or other foods. It’s kind of gross.)
Listen. I know this is hard. None of us wants to be the bad guy in our own story. And realizing that as either an author or a reader/reviewer/blogger you’ve had thoughts or actions or even inaction that have left authors and characters of color out in the cold can make you feel shitty – like you’re the bad guy. And no one likes that feeling. But we’ve got to suck it up and face what makes us uncomfortable.
For example, when I was younger, I was ignorant and held the belief that I wasn’t attracted to Asian men. Now that I’m older I know that was racist, and what I actually wasn’t attracted to was the media portrayal of Asian men: nerdy, sexless caricatures with over the top accents. Now that I’ve broadened my worldview, I’m looking at these guys and… *sweats* My old racist belief has definitely been kicked to the curb.
Hell, I’m a black woman and even I had thoughts that books by/about black people weren’t of good quality. Because that’s what I was taught – mostly indirectly by publishing. I had to unlearn that. It was mentally unpleasant to do, because I felt bad for the way I’d erroneously judged many authors.
Now this last step is expert level. I’m talking black belt in Being a Diversity Ally. If you’ve said hold my purse! and gone to bat to defend m/m romance from evil heterosexual bigots, or you’ve taken off your earrings and fought against literature snobs who dissed romance as a low brow genre, this final step is for you. Put some tape on your wrists, Vaseline on your face and (metaphorically) square up for us.
When you see someone spouting ignorance like black women don’t read/write romance, or all black romances are ghetto/poor quality, or whatever nonsense is being spewed – Say Something. Let them know their beliefs are baseless and ignorant. Authors of color fight for other causes all the time, do us a solid and help us with ours. We need the whole squad ready in order to embrace diversity in the m/m community.
TLDR: Buy, Promote, Read Books by Authors of Color Featuring Characters of Color. =)
Thanks for reading!
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In His Corner – Champions of Desire Book 2 – is now available for Pre-Order.
AMAZON (Coming Soon) B&N KOBO APPLE
It's here! It's here! The cover for In His Corner, Book Two in the Champions of Desire series, is ready for your viewing pleasure. I'm dying to show it to you, so without further ado...
Gorgeous isn't it? Tre and Brandon were brought to life by Melody Simmons at BookCoversCre8tive.com. When you're finished eyeing the pretty, keep reading because I have .99 Pre-Order Links, an excerpt and giveaway!
Available April 10th
My rambling and not at all edited thoughts on romance novels, writing, wrestling, shoes, dogs, roller derby and whatever TV show I'm binging.