You’re Invited To K. Sterling’s Hottest Adventure Yet!

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There. I said it.

I’ve had a few readers complain that the last few books were lighter on the sex than they were expecting so I decided to give those old horndogs something extra naughty this time. I love anonymous sex. There. I said it. It’s a little like being Cinderella, if you’re really good at fooling yourself. Think of it like a dance with a stranger who thinks you’re a princess. It’s just enough magic for one night and you only need the darkness of a hotel room or the backseat of a car to make it happen. You can take the metaphor even further if you’ve got poppers or a party drug to play your fairy godmother. Or a few extra footmen, if you’re really serious about being a princess.

Which brings us to Ellis Harper and his shot in the dark. I wanted to have fun with anonymous sex and see how messy I could make it so I asked myself when would be the worst time to open a hookup app and get brave. A room full of men you can’t have seemed like the best-case scenario, for our purposes. So, I took Ellis to a wedding and figured out how to raise the Disaster Factor without making him a cheater or a jerk.

I regret to inform you, dear Reader, that Ellis’s best friend Alli has gotten them into a spot of trouble. She’s pregnant and the father is a cheater and a jerk so she may have given everyone the impression that Ellis is the father in order to save herself from a weekend of lectures and dire predictions. What could possibly go wrong?

 

**WARNING! Adult language and content ahead! Be an ADULT who enjoys adults doing very adult things. WARNING!**

 

If Ellis had to guess, he was just one of a handful of men in the hotel’s bar impatiently biding their time until they could find a safe place to check their phones. He glanced at the men’s room and snorted harder as three men pushed through the crowd, in their haste to “relieve” themselves. “You’re overthinking it, guys,” he said then swiveled his stool so his back was to the wall, so no one could see over this shoulder, and pulled out his phone. He found his texts and opened the last one from Alli.

Ellis

This reception just got a lot more interesting. Someone here is cruising on Grindr…

Alli

See what you can find out. I’m on my way.

Ellis

I’m in the bar. I’ll take a look and meet you by the fruit trays in ten minutes.

“Can I get you anything, sir?” The bartender asked and Ellis shook his head then stopped when he thought of Alli.

“Just a bottle of water, please,” he said then turned his attention back to his phone. He looked like he was still texting, if anyone was watching him. He opened Grindr and found a collage full of mostly picture-less profiles but his eyes caught on wide, hard pecs, nicely defined abs and Adonis belt, and a tempting trail of dark hair that pulled Ellis’s attention to a pair of straining grey boxer briefs. “Holy shit,” Ellis breathed.

“Here’s that water,” the bartender said and Ellis opened the bottle and took his eyes off his phone just long enough to make sure he didn’t miss his mouth. He took several loud gulps then gasped loudly.

“I’m going to need another, please,” Ellis called then swore as he looked at his phone. “How dare he look like the man of my dreams and be at this wedding?” He hissed angrily. There was no age but Ellis could tell by the posture, body hair and general…solidness, that Discreetly Yours definitely wasn’t younger. He had a thing for older men and Ellis’s instincts told him he was looking at someone in his ideal range of mid-forties to mid-sixties. The face was obscured by a grinning purple devil emoji, so Ellis had absolutely nothing else to go on. “It’s my favorite emoji too,” Ellis pouted. The bartender returned with another bottle of water for Alli and Ellis thanked him and left a tip before heading for the rendezvous point.

“There you are!” She said and he offered her a glum nod.

“Here I am,” he agreed then pushed the bottle at her. “Drink this and eat something, you’ve been on your feet all day,” he said and she took a quick drink then pointed the bottle at him.

“What’s wrong? You recognized him and it’s someone bad?” She guessed and Ellis shook his head.

“No. He’s perfect but I’m afraid I’ll recognize him and he’ll be someone bad,” he said and she hissed.

“How perfect? Let me see,” she ordered and gestured impatiently. They often browsed Grindr when they were bored and he usually asked for her opinion and approval, when he did use it to get laid.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, if making a smart decision is the goal, here,” Ellis mused but Alli pulled a face then shoved her hand into his pocket.

“Quit stalling! Aside from our happy little scandal, this reception has been way too dull,” she said then cheered as she pulled out his phone.

“Speak for yourself. It’s been a circus for me. I’m going to be a father, Jamie hit on me, Colin’s a mess, and I’ve just discovered that someone in your family is bi or gay and the man of my dreams,” he complained and Alli’s jaw dropped.

“Leave Colin to me. Get out about Jamie, though!” She whispered loudly and Ellis rolled his eyes.

“Why are all the men in your family so hot? All of them,” he said and her brows jumped.

“Even Large Gerry?” She said and Ellis nodded. There were three Geralds among the Landrys and their spouses. Short Gerry, old Gerry and Large Gerry.

“Even Large Gerry. He’s large and in charge. I like when big men carry themselves like they’re in charge,” Ellis said and she made a thoughtful sound as she considered.

“I could definitely see that. He’s got that Landry swagger,” she murmured as she swiped at the phone then grabbed Ellis’s sleeve. “This definitely isn’t Large Gerry. Oh! I think he noticed you!” She whispered giddily and swiped again.

“Stop!” Ellis hissed as he snatched the phone from her but it was too late. “What did you doooo?!” He bit his knuckle to keep from screaming and throwing his phone. She tapped Discreetly Yours back with the purple devil emoji —indicating that Ellis just wanted to fuck— and was typing a message.

“I see you kept the name,” Alli said then laughed maniacally as she pointed. Ellis’s eyes dropped to his phone and the color drained from his face. He hadn’t opened, let alone used Grindr, in…months. He fell into a regular thing with a guy from his yoga class for a few months but that ended last fall and Ellis couldn’t remember how long it was since his last hook-up, before Yoga Matt. It could have been over a year-and-a-half ago, but about three months earlier, Alli had dared Ellis to change his profile name on Grindr from the much more fitting “Mr. Perfectly Adequate” to “The Cumback Kid.” It was after Margaret’s birthday party. They were drunk and snuck off to smoke a joint and Alli decided Ellis needed something more confident that implied he would be unforgettable and that he was also a fan of raunchy but safe sex.

“This baby is going to be the Doom of Man,” Ellis muttered.

“I sure hope so. Type something! He’s waiting!” She said with several hard pokes.

“Fuck!” Ellis spat and pushed his brain to do something. Anything, really.

The Cumback Kid

So… Come here often?

“Clever. Acknowledge the elephant in the room and see if he gives us any clues,” Alli said and Ellis shook his head.

“I am giving zero consideration to his identity. The only out gay men at this wedding are married and maybe Jamie. I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble. Especially myself,” he informed her then wrinkled his nose as he looked around. “Hurry up and make a plate so we can move.” They piled a plate with fruit, little pastries and cheese then relocated to an abandoned table on the other side of the room, farthest from the dance floor. “Hopefully, he’ll find someone more interesting and move on,” he said as he got Alli’s chair then pulled his close to hers and sat. She leaned against him as he checked his phone and he groaned as a response posted.

Eeek!” Alli squealed and Ellis gave her a disgusted look then read the message. 

Discreetly Yours

Cute. Are you stuck at this reception too?

“Uh oh…” Ellis shook his head. He wasn’t giving himself away like that.

The Cumback Kid

What reception?

“Smart. Figure out who he is first,” Alli said. Ellis shook his head even harder.

“Trust me. Neither of us wants to know if one of your uncles or cousins is lurking on Grindr. What do you do with that kind of knowledge?” He explained and she winced. “Exactly,” Ellis said and they both lowered their heads when another reply popped up.

Discreetly Yours 

I get it. I am so mad at myself for not turning off the notifications.

“Awww… It’s cute when guys are clumsy with technology,” Alli said and Ellis hummed in agreement.

“It shows they’ve got too much going on to waste a lot of time on their phones.”

The Cumback Kid 

If it helps, I think only a few of us noticed but the other guys are still too scared to check.

“That’s nice. Some people are so quick to make fun of others for their little fumbles. It’s such a turn-off,” Alli murmured and Ellis nodded.

“I can’t get into guys who have to be right and like to laugh when other people make mistakes.”

Discreetly Yours 

Cute and brave. Your picture’s really hot.

Alli whistled loudly as Ellis turned off the app and set his phone on the table. They were quiet for several moments before Ellis shook his head.

“Now look at what we’ve done,” he complained.

“Normally, we’d be celebrating and warming up the clippers,” Alli noted and her nose wrinkled. “Just for the sake of ‘What if…’ are you appropriately shaved and ready, in case the opportunity should present itself?” She asked and gestured airily. Ellis sat back and crossed his ankles and his arms over his chest then snorted.

“I’m wearing a tux and I knew I’d drink until my face fell off tonight. I haven’t had anything with dairy or meat in the last forty-eight hours and I ate a fistful of fiber supplements every morning this week. I had big plans but I imagined I’d be falling in love with one of the waitstaff for the weekend,” he explained then sneered at his phone. “I would never get this far with a man like that if I wasn’t surrounded by men I can’t have sex with.”

“Nonsense but it does seem like fate is having a bit of a laugh tonight,” Alli said as she tapped her chin then jumped. “I think you should go for it. I’m going to look for Addi. My feet hurt and she’s got cute flats in her bag.”

“Go. You’ve already caused me enough trouble tonight,” Ellis said as he shooed her off then offered his cheek.

“Try to get into some trouble. I’ll check on you in a bit,” she said and kissed him loudly.

 

Boy, does he, Reader. Ellis isn’t able to help himself and one text leads to another and this happens:

 

Discreetly Yours 

I’m getting a room and I’ll send the number once I’m ready. I’ll keep the lights off and if you’re feeling really brave, you can join me. I don’t want to know who you are and I’ll trust you to respect my privacy. I just want to fuck you, thoroughly and completely. I’ll have condoms.

“If you’re feeling brave?” Alli said then looked at him. “That’s got to be a sign. You have to do this.” She gave Ellis’s shoulders a shake and he nodded but there wasn’t a lot happening inside his skull. There was a lot happening in his pants. His body definitely wanted him to do it. And his heart was telling him that he needed to get fucked, thoroughly and completely. He’d been under an intense amount of stress at work and Ellis skipped dinner with his parents because they were being especially persistent about his plans for the future. Now, he was facing the daunting prospect of fatherhood and a long weekend with Alli’s family.

“I have to do this,” Ellis agreed. Alli’s hand clapped over her mouth to smother a shriek and Ellis grimaced as he looked at the door. “I did promise to take care of you tonight,” he recalled then grunted when she gave his arm a hard shove.

“I have cake and two plates of food in the fridge. I can call housekeeping if there’s anything I don’t have and I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself for a night. Go, be brave and do crazy, filthy things,” she said then rose on her toes and kissed his cheek.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this!” He whispered as he typed then bit back a scream as he hit Send.

The Cumback Kid 

Give me an hour.

“I have to take a shower; my boxers are already soaked.”

 

Which brings us to this:

 

“Wow. All the usual anxiety of an anonymous hookup plus the possibility of personal and social catastrophe. What could possibly go wrong?” Ellis asked himself as the elevator doors shut then pushed the button. It was a short ride and the doors opened a moment later. He glanced at the hall guide then checked to make sure it was clear then cautiously made his way to room 142. His eyes jumped from room number to room number and he slowed as he approached a junior suite at the end of the hall. The door was cracked and the room was dark. Ellis swallowed loudly then pushed out a hard breath as he reached for the handle. He blocked his face with his other hand as he eased it open. He leaned so he could peek around the door but he could only make out the bed and a chair as he waited for his eyes to adjust.

“I’m over here,” a voice whispered and Ellis followed it to a tall, dark figure leaning against the dresser. Is that Jamie? Ellis wondered. He couldn’t tell by the whisper and Discreet’s head was down. All Ellis could see was that he was shirtless and appeared to be drinking a cocktail. He also appeared to be alone so Ellis slid into the room and shut the door. It was too dark for Discreet to make out more than his shadow so Ellis lowered his hand and edged a little closer to the bed. He was still turned on but Ellis didn’t know who was supposed to make the first move if the top got the room. Was he supposed to just get on the bed? A lot of “straight” guys liked to get straight to it. Married men also liked to hit and run. Not that Ellis knew that much about the few men he met on Grindr or what Discreet was into, his profile was light on details. Probably for a reason, Ellis reminded himself then jumped when the ice cubes in Discreet’s glass clinked as he drank.

“Right! I’ll just get naked and get on the bed?” Ellis said quietly and his hands trembled as he fumbled with his belt buckle.

“Wait. Come here,” Discreet whispered but it was deep and there was an alluring command to his tone that sent a shiver down Ellis’s spine. His feet carried him across the room and Ellis’s heartbeat became a maddening throb at the smell of scotch and his cologne. “Let’s see if this is going to work, first,” Discreet murmured before his hand curved around Ellis’s jaw and he was pulled close. 

“Ok,” he said softly then braced his hands on Discreet’s chest as their lips touched. His breath tasted like scotch and his lips were firm and warm and Ellis moaned as he leaned into Discreet. Fingers pushed through Ellis’s hair and heat burst under his skin as their tongues swirled. They became bolder and hungrier and Ellis went limp as Discreet’s hand locked around his ass. Discreet angled his head, taking the kiss deeper as their hard-ons were crushed then bucked against Ellis. It was frantic and euphoric as they became wild with lust. Most importantly, Ellis had no clue who Discreet was. “It’s working!” Ellis gasped breathlessly. He swallowed a moan as Discreet sucked on his chin then dragged his teeth along Ellis’s jaw and found his ear. 

“It’s definitely working,” he panted. Ellis nodded and attacked the buttons on his shirt then moved his hands out of the way when Discreet ripped it open. Buttons pattered onto the floor and Discreet hissed but it didn’t sound very sincere. There was a drowsy rumble as his lips dragged over Ellis’s skin. “Sorry. I need to touch you,” he murmured then groaned as his hands slid beneath Ellis’s shirt and around his chest.

“Fuck it. I have lots of shirts,” he said as he shook his arm free and flung it at the door.

“You feel perfect. Tell me what you want,” Discreet purred in the dark before his tongue washed up Ellis’s neck, destroying what was left of his inhibitions.

“This!” Ellis said as he gripped the hard-on straining against the front of Discreet’s trousers. His self-respect was gone as well, Ellis noted, as he lowered to his knees. He rubbed his face against the bulge and Discreet swore as his hands swept through Ellis’s hair.

“Jesus, Kid, you’re killing me.” It was a strangled whisper and Ellis felt an intoxicating swell of desire and power as he gave Discreet’s trousers and boxer briefs a swift tug. 

Ellis would have dropped his pants and hugged his knees and allowed Discreet to take whatever he wanted. It would still be hot but knowing Discreet gave Ellis the reins when he was clearly used to being in command was exhilarating. Discreet’s power and pride were as obvious to Ellis as the beat of his own heart and the desire coursing through his veins. But Discreet was ready to play with fire and was waiting for Ellis to light the match. Ellis prayed he wouldn’t get burned then jumped into the flames. His hands spread as they pushed up Discreet’s thighs then wrapped around this thick length. He pushed his nose and lips into Discreet’s sack and Ellis was rewarded with a gasp as the fingers in his hair twisted. Discreet’s balls were smooth and heavy and Ellis made a delighted sound as he lapped and sucked. Ellis’s vision was limited to outlines and shapes in the dark so he shut his eyes and wallowed in the clean, crisp taste of Discreet’s warm, aroused flesh and his tortured whispers. The air filled with Discreet’s strangled pleas and curses as Ellis’s tongue lashed at his shaft greedily. He teased the slit and Ellis moaned as pre-cum burst on his tongue. Ellis swallowed the head and his lips burned as they stretched around Discreet’s shaft. “Holy fucking…!” Discreet whimpered as his hand slapped onto the dresser behind him and Ellis could hear his fingertips clawing at the wood. He tasted like heaven but Ellis wanted Discreet to let go. Burn with me.

“I came to get thoroughly and completely fucked,” Ellis whispered silkily as his lips teased the end of Discreet’s cock.

“Goddamn it!” Discreet growled as Ellis was pulled to his feet then thrown onto the bed. Discreet’s hands and lips were everywhere as they writhed and kicked out of their clothes until they were slick, naked and tangled. “You taste so fucking perfect!” Discreet said as he slid lower and bright bursts of color filled Ellis’s vision as he blinked at the ceiling. Discreet was ruthless as he sucked, licked and stroked. He bathed Ellis’s cock in lush, scorching heat then stole his breath as Discreet’s tongue swept beneath his sack and washed over his hole. “Fuck!” Discreet hissed then held Ellis open and angled his face so he could gorge himself. He sucked and his tongue thrust and probed as his fingers pushed into the tight ring of Ellis’s ass. Discreet fingered him slow and deep, stretching and twisting as Ellis arched and moaned deliriously.

“Please!” Ellis urged. He clutched the duvet and his feet kicked and his toes curled as he fought off the driving pleasure building in his groin. Ellis whimpered in relief and pushed out a shaking breath as Discreet climbed up his body. Then, he laughed in surprise when Discreet crashed into his lips and kissed him. He was tender but possessive as his hand curved around Ellis’s jaw and he groaned.

“I’m going to dream about drowning in your lips and your ass,” Discreet complained and Ellis swore in frustration as he grabbed his face and kissed him hard.

“Do not make me fall in love with you. This is already a mistake.” There was a ragged chuckle as Discreet’s arm stretched for the nightstand.

“I don’t think I have a choice,” he teased but a tremor passed between them, as if they felt the same sense of foreboding. His lips hovered over Ellis’s, as if he was pausing and having second thoughts.

“Don’t think,” Ellis suggested. His fingers trailed down wide, flat, hair-dusted pecs then over the hard ridges of Discreet’s abs and around his side. Ellis moaned as his hand spread around the tight globe of Discreet’s ass and he bucked impatiently beneath him. “You’ll never know you fucked me and I’ll never know it was you.”

“What if we can’t forget?” Discreet huffed against Ellis’s lips. He kissed Ellis before he rose and rested on his elbow. There was a weak glint of foil in the dark and the sound of a wrapper ripping. Discreet quickly stretched a condom over his length and Ellis might have fallen in love when he heard the clicking of a cap before slick fingers traced his passage.

“So thoughtful,” Ellis observed and there was a soft snort.

“We’re going to need it,” he warned then forced the air from Ellis’s lungs as he filled him with hard, steady heat.

 

Who’s Discreet and what happens when a weekend fling with a mysterious stranger turns into a habit Ellis can’t quit?

 

Get Ellis Harper’s Shot In The Dark NOW for $3.99 on Amazon or FREE with KU!:

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Also! If you’re not a member of The Sterlings’ League of Extraordinary Perverts over on Facebook, hurry up and join us for lots of sneak peeks and fun extras! We’re having a special giveaway at the end of the month for our group members and we’d love to include you! We’re a closed group, for your privacy, so you’ll have to answer two simple questions so we know you’re not going to be a creep to other members, but that’s all it takes! Look at what we’re giving to one lucky Pervert!:

 

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Join The Sterlings’ League of Extraordinary Perverts HERE:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1635600189856650/

 

AND:

Join us for Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial! We’re sharing The Perfect Cover on audiobook in a FREE series on Soundcloud. Check it out and subscribe so you never miss an episode and stay for fun commentary and nonsense with me and Scott!

Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial on Soundcloud:

 

You’re Invited To K. Sterling’s Hottest Adventure Yet!

Have you tried Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial?

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Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial: https://bit.ly/38sfVin

 

Did you know we have a FREE audiobook series on Soundcloud?
Well, we do! We’re 7 chapters into The Perfect Cover and you can catch up and follow us so you don’t miss another episode! Listen to Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial NOW and follow us for recaps, commentary and a new episode each week!

Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/…/scotts-sexy-instant-serial-episode…

For commentary and shenanigans, check out The Pervy Podcast on our Sterling Audio Soundcloud channel: https://soundcloud.com/user-321457733/pervy-corner-ep-22

The Perfect Cover on Amazon and KU: https://www.amazon.com/…/B08…/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Have you tried Scott’s Sexy Instant Serial?

The Perfect Cover and the perfect cover

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I was in a brave, optimistic place this summer. I survived a gall bladder attack and a subsequent surgery and realized I could work in the pool while drinking White Claws and Trulys. There was also an open call from Avon for unagented manuscripts so I decided to shoot my shot, since this was Sarah’s summer. “What are my strengths, self?” I asked and my response was “Antiheroes and underdogs?” I knew I wanted an agent of some sort and to pair him with someone who wouldn’t be impressed, or interested, really. I decided a very tired suburban father would be fun but the more I learned about Grant, the more I realized that his story would be a tough one and that he was the real hero of the book. How does a man end up a single father? There aren’t a lot of good reasons, are there? I decided this was a good time to introduce a character who was beautiful and heroic in a very different way. Grant is a lot like me, and I suspect a lot of my readers, in that he suffers from depression and anxiety. He isn’t depressed or anxious because his husband died or because his neighbors are spies. He’s always struggled with depression and has terrible anxiety, like the hundreds of millions of people around the world who struggle with mental illness in their daily lives. As a result, I told on myself a whole lot, in writing Grant. I even gave him a big goofy dog for a best friend, named Edgar. But, I promise, this isn’t a sad book. Grant’s story is a sad one but our dashing agent sees the hero in him and makes it his mission to make the shy but secretly kinky widower laugh again. There’s also the matter of the Chinese spies living next door and Grant’s daughter, Audrey, and his sister-in-law have matchmaking schemes aplenty. I lost my best friend just as I was finishing The Perfect Cover. My Milo passed away and it was hard to edit a book about a depressed man with a big goofy dog, being a severely depressed woman without her dog. Then, Avon passed on The Perfect Cover and while I was disappointed, I was glad that I could finally share what I think is a sexy, fun and very honest book with my readers. What I wasn’t excited about was the title and the cover. For months, it was called “Hopkins Creek” because I hoped Avon would want it and someone more savvy might help with a decent title and I didn’t even think about covers. God, I hate titles and covers. But once they passed, I had a book to self-publish and sell so I stopped crying and put on my thinking cap. I’ve been on the fence about illustrated covers on romance books but since “Hopkins Creek” wasn’t like my Lake Cliff books I wanted something that would signal that to readers so a different cover made sense. I found some cute illustrated guys and an extremely adorable dog among the stock pictures and my spirits lifted as I tinkered on Photoshop. I used The Perfect Cover as a place holder because I thought I was being cheeky and meta but Melissa loved the title and pointed out that it worked, so I left it! What do you think of the final result? And how about a whole chapter excerpt from The Perfect Cover?

“Don’t ignore the alarm when it goes off. You’ll forget to take your pills,” Audrey scolded absently as she typed on her phone and Grant snorted.

“I think I can remember to take my pills,” he replied and she hummed in agreement.

“I like pretending you weren’t puffy and covered in hives when you picked me up last month too,” she said dryly. “Just take your meds when the alarm goes off or you’ll forget.”

“I will,” Grant promised. It wasn’t just his allergy meds, he got behind with his Effexor and caught up with his depression and anxiety. He spent the last half of the month on the couch watching old family movies and eating ice cream in the dark. “I’m glad it’s just three days this time. A month is way too long,” he complained.

“I’ve got bad news, dad. College is significantly longer than a month and then I’m never coming back,” she said then flashed him a sweet smile. “I’m kidding. I’ll miss you and come home so I can do my laundry at least once a month,” she promised. Grant glared at the windshield. He hated that she was sixteen.

“Why can’t you wait and go to college when you’re eighteen?” He asked and she sighed as they turned into the high school parking lot. Grant parked next to the bus and Audrey unbuckled her belt then hugged his arm.

“It’s just a two-hour hour drive and I’ll call you all the time,” she said gently. He shushed her as he gave her a squeeze and kissed her hair.

“Don’t think I’m not proud of you or excited, just because I’m falling apart. I’ll figure out some way to survive on my own,” he teased.

“I know,” she said as she sat back then waved at her best friend, Ashley, before her eyes flicked back to Grant and narrowed. “You better do something cool this weekend,” she threatened. Grant started to smirk before she pointed. “With someone other than Edgar,” she stipulated and his face fell.

“Why can’t I hang out with Edgar? That’s cool,” he argued and she shook her head.

“Hang out with Walter or Aunt Marcy or… I don’t know, meet a guy,” she suggested nonchalantly and Grant’s face twisted. “Come on!” Audrey begged. “Think about how much better I’d feel!” She protested. “I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for leaving you alone and someone else can remind you to take your pills every morning.”

“Shouldn’t you be going?” He asked flatly and she pulled a face as she leaned in to kiss him.

“I love you and I want you to do something this weekend. You don’t have to do anything radical like go on Tinder, if you’re not ready. But you have to do something nice for yourself or talk to someone other than Edgar. And not on the phone, please,” she added as she gave him a loaded look and he held up his hands.

“I will do my best but I can’t promise my idea of cool will be as exciting as you’re hoping,” he warned but she waved if off.

“Don’t spend the next three days at home, alone. And running by the post office and grabbing coffee doesn’t count. You see the same people and have the exact same conversations every day. Go get a haircut or a pedicure or buy yourself something nice. Whatever. Just don’t stay home,” she ordered.

“Fine. Get out or I’ll throw you out,” he said then kissed her loudly on the forehead. “I love you. Check in when you get there and send me a text goodnight.”

“I will and I love you too,” Audrey said then pushed open her door and hopped out of the passenger seat. Grant waited as she grabbed her backpack and duffle bag from the back then loaded her things into the bus.

“Stay safe, Jelly Bean,” he murmured softly as Audrey and Ashley got on the bus and took their seats at the front so they could help supervise the younger campers. He made a weak attempt to shake the guilt during the short drive from the high school to the town center. It was a lot easier to trick Audrey into thinking he was happy when she was younger, but she noticed and worried more as she got older. Grant parked in front of The Six Beans Coffee Co. and waved at Vanessa as he passed the window then frowned as he reached for the post office door. He didn’t even look, he just waved because he knew she’d be there.

“Morning, Grant! Got your mail right here. Looks like a beautiful weekend,” Rhoda predicted as she handed Grant his mail. He nodded as he took it and she pointed as he tucked it under his arm. “You’ve got the new Pottery Barn catalog there! They’ve got those cute lamps I was telling you about again.”

“Great!” Grant said loudly. He pretended he knew what she was talking about and that the déjà vu wasn’t severe. Marcy put his address and email on Pottery Barn’s mailing list to get a coupon, he suspected. But Rhoda loved Pottery Barn so he went along with it every time a new catalog came in. “I’ll keep an eye out for them when I’m flipping through it.”

“Oh! How’s Edgar?” She asked solemnly and Grant shook his head.

“It wasn’t that serious. The big baby got his foot pinched in Marcy’s fence because he was trying to catch Lola so they could be friends. He needed a few stitches and a few days in a cone to reflect. He’s not too thrilled about it so I let him stay home to preserve his dignity,” he explained and she laughed.

“Poor guy, that cat’s just a hateful thing.”

“I keep telling Edgar but he’s determined to be her friend,” Grant sighed then tapped his mail against his brow. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Rhoda.”

“You have a lovely day, dear. Tell Edgar I missed him and let Audrey know I enjoyed her little article in the paper,” she said as she hurried around the post office counter and got the door for him.

“I’ll tell them,” Grant replied absently as he studied the Audi parked next to him, in front of the coffee shop. Hopkins Creek was full of luxury vehicles but most were SUVs and crossovers. Something about the sharp little sports car made the hairs on the back of Grant’s neck stand.

It took Grant all of two seconds to find the Audi’s owner after he stepped into The Six Beans. He was thanking Vanessa for his coffee then smiled at Grant before he went off to add sugar to his cup. Grant quickly noted the perfect hair, flawless smile, square jaw, expensive suit and the other man’s tall, lean and probably sculpted body and moved along. Like the other mortals in the coffee shop, Grant pretended to be unaware of the walking cologne ad obliviously perusing the display of travel mugs and smiled at Vanessa as he stepped up to the counter.

“How’s it going? Just my usual,” he said. He pulled out his wallet and Vanessa hissed urgently as she waved for him to come closer. Grant frowned as he leaned over the counter.

“He’s definitely single but I can’t tell which one of us should make a move!” She whispered then cocked her chin at the other man.

“A move? Who…?” Grant asked quietly and cluelessly. Vanessa cleared her throat loudly and pointed at the man as she rubbed her nose.

“Him!” She coughed and Grant flinched before he chuckled and shook his head.

“I can’t tell either but I doubt he’d give me his number,” he said dismissively as he slid his card into the reader and punched in his PIN.

“I’d love to give you my number,” a smooth, warm voice murmured from over his shoulder and Grant wanted to shove his face right in his wallet. Grant’s fingers were numb and trembled as he found a $5 for Vanessa.

“Yikes!” She whispered and her eyes were wide but sparkled with delight as they met Grant’s. She giggled as she hurried off to make his coffee and Grant swallowed the giant knot in his throat as he stuffed the bill in the tip jar. He was sweating but he managed a humanlike smile as he turned and Grant was stunned as bright, seeking blue eyes trapped his.

“Sorry to eavesdrop but she whispers loud,” he said then winked at Grant.

“She does,” Grant agreed as his head bobbled. “But the coffee’s really good so we overlook her lack of subtlety.” He laughed weakly then pressed the back of his hand to his head to check if the flop sweat had begun yet.

“Do you come here often?” The impossibly gorgeous man asked as he swayed a little closer and Grant almost looked around to see who he was flirting with. But he knew that aside from Vanessa, Edgar and the Davis sisters, it was just the two of them.

“Just about every day,” Grant said then glanced at Vanessa and silently begged her to hurry. “The post office doesn’t deliver here so I stop in and say hi to Vanessa after I see Rhoda for my mail. I like to take my dog, Edgar, to the park afterwards,” he explained. Why? Grant asked himself and his nose scrunched as he wondered if he could find anything blander to tell the most beautiful man he’d ever met. “Unless the weather’s really bad. Then we just go home,” he added. There you go.

“I’m devastated to see you didn’t bring Edgar with you today. I love dogs,” the most beautiful man replied as he reached into his coat and pulled out his phone.

“Dogs are great,” Grant replied woodenly and his eyes widened in panic.

“Here’s your coffee, Grant!” Vanessa chirped and Grant gasped in relief as he turned and grabbed the cup like it was a life vest and the coffee shop was going under.

“Thank you! I’ve got to go!” He said and her head pushed forward in shock.

“Grant!” She protested.

“Not before I get your number, I hope,” the other man said and Grant shook his head quickly as he backed away from the counter.

“I left my phone in the car,” he mumbled as he gestured over his shoulder then turned and escaped. He pushed open the door and almost ran to his car as he pulled his keys from his pocket. Grant fumbled with the mail and his coffee as he opened the door and ducked into the driver’s seat but he made an otherwise clean getaway. “I left my phone in the car?” He yelled at the windshield in disgust then sneered. “And what was that even about? Asking me for my number…” he complained then waved at the windshield. “That guy would never be interested in me.”

There was a very brief time in Grant’s life when he considered himself “hot”, it was right after college, when he and Chris got their first place together. They still had abs and jawlines and groomed obsessively because they didn’t have Audrey yet. But not even then. The guy in the coffee shop probably dated men with diplomatic immunity and private jets. He wasn’t sure what the dashing younger man was doing in Hopkins Creek but Grant severely doubted he was hunting for a broken forty-two-year-old soccer dad.

“God, he was beautiful, though. And he smelled incredible,” Grant sighed as he turned into his driveway. Edgar was standing on the couch and watching through the window. His whip-like tail swatted excitedly as he waited and Grant’s mood lifted as he got out of the car. He was still disappointed in himself for acting like a total ass but at least he got to spend the rest of the morning teasing Edgar about his silly collar.

The Perfect Cover will be available on December 17th but you can PRE-ORDER it NOW on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2YDQ2bG

 

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The Perfect Cover and the perfect cover

The Most Vulnerable Child

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My son is 16 today. We’re going to make vanilla cupcakes and sugar cookies and go shopping for Nerf guns and Disney Cars toys.

 

There’s a man in town who breaks my heart every time I see him. He walks everywhere. You see him calamity-ing down the sidewalk, his backpack sliding down his arm as he juggles all the items he’s carrying. His hair is feather fine and greasy. His face is always dirty and his clothes are beyond saving. People avoid eye contact and give him a wide berth because he’s loud and he smells terrible. I can’t help but follow him and talk to him when I cross paths with him at the grocery store because I see my own son every time I look at him.

 

When Alex was younger, let’s say 6 or 7, I thought I had to use every day in April to make every person I knew aware that it was Autism Awareness month. I shared a different statistic or a link to an article or the ASA so they might make a donation. I wrote clever and gently emotional blog posts about the misadventures of parenting an autistic child. My tone was always upbeat and maybe cheekily stoic. If that’s possible. I’ve stopped as Alex has gotten older.

 

If you have a 6 or a 7 year old with Autism, the world has your back and you’re brave. When your child is 16 people get annoyed because he wanders in their path when they’re just trying to grab a few groceries and get out of the store before they see someone they know. People give him looks because he’s carrying a Build-A-Bear or a pillow pet and he does weird things with his hands. If you’re an adult with autism, maybe in your mid thirties, people give you a wide berth because you’re loud, dirty and smell like you walk the length and width of town twice a day.

 

When I talk to people about my writing, I’m often asked how I find the time to write a book almost every month. Don’t get it twisted. It doesn’t happen that often and the other question I hear a lot is “Why?”. But people are mostly (mildly) impressed because I have time for 50,000 or so words a month. It’s not that hard to believe if you take sleep out of the equation. When you have a child with severe autism, sleep stops being your friend and the nights are awful. Writing books in my head about wars and the politics of Pre WWI Europe and Russia was how I kept my brain from spiraling during the quiet hours of the night. I just repurposed that time into physical writing and that’s how we got here.

 

If you have a child with autism you go to assheaded lengths to avoid the quiet moments in your head and you save yourself by laughing as much and as often as you can. If you’re smart. When it’s quiet and there’s nothing to laugh at you ask yourself the hard questions and you worry about things that can only hurt your heart. I worry about what’s going to happen to Alex when I’m not here anymore and how much of a burden he’s going to be on his sisters’ futures. I worry about him being the man no one wants to look at or stand next to in line at the grocery store. I know the life expectancy for a woman who can’t fall asleep without a sleeping pill, a tranquilizer and smoking a few bowls isn’t that generous. I’m going out like Michael Jackson or it’s going to be cancer.

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If I see 60 I’m going to be quite nonplussed. I write like my ass is on fire because my books will exist as long as there’s an internet and my girls and their children might be able to find more clever ways to market them than I can. I write because it might save Alex later. The services for people with autism wanes as they become adults, as does the compassion of those around them.

 

Autism Awareness month isn’t the megaphone for advocating and support that it used to be, for me. Now, it’s a month of reflecting on how much we’ve lost or what we’re never going to get. It’s also prom season and I see all the things Alex isn’t going to do with his peers. He isn’t even in high school. I’ve homeschooled him for the last five years because there aren’t enough resources in the school system and we couldn’t get to the root of what was scaring him bad enough to wet his pants every time I dropped him off. But he’s never going to ask a girl (or boy) to prom, drive a car or graduate from college. Autism Awareness month has become a month of disappointment as I’ve grown to realize that all the awareness, sympathy and empathy is reserved for toddlers and younger children. The awareness and support slows to a trickle and then becomes a negligent drip as autistic children become teenagers and adults. People stop making eye contact and the gentle, patient smiles and nods dry up by the time there’s acne and a few intrepid chin hairs.

 

It’s getting harder to write about Alex because I feel myself becoming more bitter as he gets older. I used to push for some intellectual or emotional growth every day. I wanted him to be better at telling time or tying his shoes because in my head, those were one less thing my girls would have to struggle with, when I’m not there. But the list of things I have to teach him keeps getting bigger and the hours get shorter. How do I teach someone with the intellectual maturity of a 4 year old to shave? How do I make the world easier for a man who will never be older than 6?

 

My little boy is 16 today. Instead of looking forward and wondering where he’ll go to college or when he’ll start his own family, I worry about how much less there is for him in the world as he gets older. I worry about how much taller he is than me and what we’ll do when he realizes he’s already stronger. I pray he’ll get to live with me until I die and he doesn’t have to go to a home or spend his days medicated into passivity.

 

I stopped writing about parenting an autistic child because parents like me don’t need another brave face or to hear an exhausted mom say “Fuck Autism.” in every way she can articulate.  Mostly, I realized I don’t like a lot of the people who blog about parenting. Especially those with disabled children. I can always see their forced smiles and I catch the panic in their eyes, I can hear their internal screaming as they laugh about scrubbing poop off walls and tantrums in Walmart. Stop trying to make it look fun and easy. Stop telling the rest of us that we have to act like this is just fine. Quit lying.

 

As the mother of a 16 year old with autism, I just ask that you be kind. When you see a that man in the store, don’t look away and let him struggle on his own. Know that he’s probably lost his mother and she tried her best to make him as strong as she could but there just wasn’t enough time. Remember that the world got harder and less patient as he got older. People cared less because he wasn’t small and cute and the people he spent his whole life depending on have died or have lives of their own. Autism doesn’t go away as people get older, we just become less aware of them.

 

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The Most Vulnerable Child

After Death And Addiction

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In the summer of 1997 my family and I drove from Fort Drum, New York to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It was a magical road trip. I just received my driver’s license and I was following my parents’ Explorer in my hand-me-down LeBaron. It was just me and my brother and we listened to Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy the whole damn way. I was 18 and he was 14 and we knew we were so fucking fresh.

We were Army brats and our lives started over every two or three years. But no matter where we went, we had each other’s backs and for several weeks, we were our only friends. There were hours spent on ski lifts talking shit about who ran a trail the fastest or got the most air on a jump. Or, we swore we wouldn’t tell mom and dad about ditching trails and negotiating over fallen trees and boulders as we made our own way down the mountain. When Nintendo’s NES came out, we barely slept for weeks playing Contra, Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt.

Then, life happened. I went to college and into the Army. Kevin started high school and learned how to use drugs. At first it, wasn’t that serious, it was just marijuana. I smoked pot now and then and laughed it off. The two of us went to the movies stoned and thought Jar Jar Binks made sense.

Eventually, I moved on and Kevin got into harder drugs, stealing to pay for harder drugs and dropped out of high school. The sweet, funny partner in some of my favorite crimes and adventures became less and less of a person I could recognize or stand to be around. He went to juvenile detention/rehab facilities until he advanced to jail. The first few times my parents bailed him out and paid legal fees but eventually let him ride out his time. He became known to the cops as a petty thief, small time drug dealer and addict.

Every year he became less coherent. His speech and intellect deteriorated until he was a rambling, ignorant bore. Years of incarceration made him racist and paranoid. I avoided talking to him because we’d fight over his use of racial slurs and his disrespectful behavior toward our parents. I was very protective when it came to his interaction with my kids. If I suspected he was high, they were off limits to him and I wouldn’t tolerate hate speech in their presence. When he wasn’t around I went through his belongings to make sure he adhered to my parents’ No Drugs In The House rule. I resented him for stealing my mother’s jewelry or the antique guns that belonged to my father’s grandfather. He stole the medals my father received over his 37 years in the Army, he probably made $20 off the lot.

My bother’s first overdose was in the fall of 2013 but he’d been to the emergency room for numerous drug related injuries before. He burned the top of his tongue off and half of his arm was scarred from freon. In April I received a call from my mother telling me my dad found him at home, unresponsive from an overdose. A few hours later, he was conscious. The paramedics administered Narcan and he was able to go home the next morning.

The first conversation I had with my brother when I came to visit this summer was more of a lecture. I raged at him for letting my dad find him nearly dead and begged him not to die in my parents’ home. I told him it was time for him to act like 33 year old man and get his shit together. My parents couldn’t travel or spend Christmases with us in Arizona because they were afraid he’d pawn everything they owned or blow up the house making meth. They came home to strangers going through their house and feared Kevin might get high and kill them in their sleep. I worried about my father dying and my brother stripping the house of anything he could sell and the confrontation we’d have over whatever inheritance he expected.

Sunday night, my mother, aunt and my girls watched Drag Race in the living room. We ate cheesecake and drank wine (the girls drank sodas) and screamed “Yassss, girl!” until 2 a.m.. My brother stumbled in and mumbled something ignorant as he at a bowl of cereal and I rolled my eyes and waved him off. He was so high he couldn’t put a decent sentence together. My bitch face was strong and in my head I called him pathetic, worthless and selfish. My mom yelled at him for being high and told him he had to find someplace else to stay when he got up the next morning. I told her to leave him alone so he’d shut himself in the den so we could salvage the rest of the evening. He was high and I thought he was baked out of his mind on pot.

We heard a lot of moaning and loud breathing and when we investigated we found him on the couch and thought he was passed out. He did that a lot. He’d disappear for a week then come home and sleep for days. So, we stood over him and snorted at how much noise he made as he snored and drooled. Once our Drag Race marathon was over we went to bed. I was still so irritated with my brother and tossed and turned for an hour because I forgot to take my sleeping pill. I went downstairs and took my pill, grabbed a bottle of water and just as I reached the stairs I paused. Kevin made another loud “snore” and for some reason it made me uneasy. I went into the den and stared for a moment before I placed my hand on his chest. I felt it move then shook my head and went back upstairs to bed.

The next morning, I did my usual Monday morning things. I paid bills online, checked social media and did a little window shopping on Amazon. The girls and I drank coffee and ate breakfast as we discussed our plans for the day with my parents. My mom, aunt, Stella and I decided to sneak away and order Zoe’s birthday cake for Saturday. My dad mowed the lawn and my grandmother was baking in the kitchen. I got ready to head out and was slipping on my shoes when my mother decided to wake my brother up to tell him to go out and find a job or someplace else to stay.

I heard her yell for my dad and we both ran into the den. Kevin wouldn’t wake up. My dad checked him and he was cold. He was pale and a dried cone foam protruded from his nose. My mom still thinks he had a bloody nose during the night and stuffed a tissue in his nose and went back to sleep. I can’t tell her what it was or that he was probably brain dead by the time we went to bed the night before.

Death doesn’t happen to the deceased. They’re not there when death happens. Death is my mother screaming and fighting us as we pushed her out of the room. Death is my dad, shaking and struggling to tell the 911 operator that his son is dead in the front room. Death is my aunt and grandmother wailing and me rushing my kids upstairs before they can figure out what has happened. Death is my mother begging me to make the paramedics work on my brother and asking why they won’t give him another shot of Narcan then begging me to stop them from leaving. Death is holding my dad’s hand and gasping for breath as the coroner wheeled my brother’s body through the front door.

We put my mom in bed when the medical examiner arrived. She was hysterical and wanted to hold Kevin. We didn’t tell her what was going on and she kept asking “Is Kevin home?” as I held her hand and told her they were just taking pictures. I slipped away and hung onto my dad as Kevin left the house for the last time then went back and told my mom he was gone.

Death is painful. My mother’s chest ached and my stomach felt cold and clenched for days. Sleeping is hard. Even with my sleeping pills, I couldn’t close my eyes and not see my brother on the couch. My dad swore he could hear my brother banging cabinets and pans they way he always did when he got high and cooked in the middle of the night. My mom just cried all the time. During the day we float from room to room, aching and exhausted, unfocused and tearful. My dad is Midwestern and stoic and tried to keep busy cleaning the odds and ends my magpie brother left strewn about the garage. But his grief became too heavy so he’s medicated and wanders around in a xanex and valium haze.

My grandmother is angry. We decided to have Kevin cremated and didn’t have a service. The days that followed his death felt like one long service and no one would attend something in a church but us. If any of my brother’s drug user/dealer friends did turn up, a fist fight might break out. My dad and I would be happy to break their faces and claw their eyes out. Instead, I’ll transfer Kevin’s ashes into two boxes this evening and a pastor will be present to say something comforting for my mother. My dad won’t be there. He can’t see Kevin’s ashes or hear final words.

I consider myself a mindful atheist. I have always admired and studied religion but it never fit me personally. But you borrow those harmless adages in hopes they’ll give comfort. Time becomes stagnant and pointless when you’re grieving. My mother and I laid in bed, holding hands and whispering to each other for hours. She’d say “I miss him” or “Do you think he was scared or it was painful?”. I’d tell her he was tortured and trapped by drugs and was finally at peace, in a better place and able to truly rest. I promised he felt like he was in a beautiful place as he drifted off to sleep and was relaxed and happy. It was gentle and he believed he would wake up the next morning.

My own feelings surprised me. When someone you love is an addict for 18 years you think you’re ready for their death. You let go of them and resent them for the damage they’ve done. Maybe being so intimately involved with Kevin’s death made it harder. I might have been stronger and less hurt if we had just received a phone call. I don’t know if I could have saved him when I checked on him that last time. I’m not sure if I would, as terrible as it sounds. I would have only delayed his death by a few more months and my parents would be alone with the pain and senselessness. Or, he might have died behind the wheel of a car or been killed during a drug deal.

Memories catch me off guard. I’ll be driving and remember Kevin practicing softball with the girls during one of his more lucid moments. He loved my kids and tried to be a good uncle when his mind was present. Or, I’ll remember fishing with him when we were kids or a drunken night a few summers ago when we pushed my mom in the pool. I’ll miss the boy I grew up with and the stupid fights we had. We’d duel with toilet bowl brushes and I buried his baseball trophy in the litter box because he broke my porcelain doll. I’ll wish I wish there when he lost his way. He had parents who loved him and would have helped him be anything but couldn’t stop him from becoming nothing.

The day he died I hugged my girls and all I could tell them was that everything would be alright. I sat them down and promised they could say anything to me, all their feelings were safe. But I had nothing else of value to tell them at the time. I swore I’d have better words later. I still don’t know how to explain death to them or how to process it.

Right now, death is a set of closed doors and a room we’re all afraid to look at. Someone will go in and remove a few things or clean a piece of furniture but can only bear to be there for a moment or two. Alex tries to watch the TV or use the playstation, he doesn’t understand what happened or why I keep running him out. He thinks Kevin is in jail again and we all wish he was.

Death is also fiction. There are times when I think I’ll see my brother and say “See? That’s what’s going to happen if you don’t stop this.” You wake up in the morning and for a few minutes it’s just a morning. There isn’t a person shaped hole in your life and you don’t have to confront the new grief each day brings. A part of your mind can’t tolerate the reality that someone you’ve known your entire life, that was a portion of who you are no longer exists. Somehow, it can be undone.

My aunt and grandparents return to Istanbul on Saturday and the kids and I will drive back to Arizona on Monday. I worry about how my parents will face an empty house and the lack of Kevin’s clothes and belongings. I’ve spent the last week sending things off for donation or selling anything of value on Craigslist so my parents wouldn’t have to deal with all of it. I don’t know how they’ll cope with a life without worry or disappointment. Or death. For them, death is the end of hope and a battle they’ve lost to save their son from himself and addiction.

This place is where I share my happiest news about my books and the occasional observations about parenting an autistic teenager. Today, I need this place to express all the things I can’t put into words yet. Perhaps my girls will read this later or someone will find it and feel a connection to our loss. Or, if there’s any logic to the universe, someone like my brother will see this and decide to spare their family the unfathomable pain and confusion a death like this leaves in its wake. Right now, I’m doing what comes naturally, I’m using words to cleanse the fog and clutter in my mind and the anxious pressure in my chest.

After Death And Addiction