Welcome to our third week of celebrations for the amazing
In this week's post, we're looking at Lessons Learned and Lovers Entwined, plus a personal story Lillian has chosen to share. There's also another chance to win one of her books.
First up, Lessons Learned
Drew Jackson is sick of constantly being on the move, running away from his mistakes, his desires, and a secret-filled past. He's decided his new teaching job in Cardiff is his chance to finally settle down. Perhaps here he can have a home, and even friendships that won't end in disaster. Like his growing rapport with history teacher Nathan Morgan.
Nathan has been careful to keep his sexuality a secret at work. He doesn't want that kind of attention from the student body. There's one body he would like attention from, though—the new science teacher, Drew. But it's much too risky to let Drew know how he feels. He won't gamble their fledgling friendship on an awkward confession of lust. And Drew's probably straight anyway.
Their friendship is derailed when a student's accusation forces a reluctant confession. Drew is tempted to run again until he comes face to face with the inescapable realisation that flight has ruined every relationship he's ever had. But maybe he's finally found someone worth staying in one place for.
Checking the caller ID even as he connected the call, Drew couldn’t stop the grin that spread across his face.
“Nathan.” He greeted his friend ebulliently. Then he remembered the circumstances that had stopped them from speaking for nearly a week and sobered immediately.
“Drew. I’m sorry I didn’t get ’round to calling you. I know we had plans, but I’m going to have to cancel. I’m not going to be back in time to see the band tomorrow. Things really haven’t been good here.”
A shiver ran through Drew. He was wet and naked and the heating had barely had time to warm his flat. But the chill had more to do with the tone of desolation and loss he heard in Nathan’s voice. Another shudder ran through him and his whole body shook this time. He scrubbed the towel over his skin with little finesse in an attempt to chase away the moisture and return some warmth to his frozen skin.
“It’s fine. You can’t help it.” His teeth clanked together before he could stop them, an involuntary reaction to the cold.
“Are you okay?” Suddenly Nathan sounded alert and anxious.
“Sure.” Drew allowed the smile that formed at Nathan’s concern to seep into his voice. “I’d just stepped out of the shower when you rang and I’m dripping all over the carpet.”
“Oh.” It carried like a breathless whisper over the phone line and Drew prayed they weren’t about to lose the connection, the sound was so faint. He shouldn’t have worried, for Nathan’s next words were strong and clear. “Oh. Sorry. I’ll let you go then.”
“No! No, I’ve been drying myself as we were talking. I’ll get my bathrobe. How’s your sister?” Drew left the towel on the back of the sofa and padded naked into his bedroom to retrieve his bathrobe. The unmade bed looked comfortable and inviting and despite the early hour—barely nine o’clock—he slipped into the welcoming folds.
“Physically on the mend, emotionally, well, not so much. I can’t really speak. I’ve got one of the kids sleeping on my lap, but I’m not certain she is actually asleep. I don’t want to be overheard.”
“Of course I’m asleep, Uncle Nathan.” Drew heard a faint voice drifting to him though the phone. The voice was so very childlike and seemed to not be weighed down by worry like her uncle’s. If Drew remembered correctly, Nathan’s niece was about five or six. “Who are you talking to? Your boyfriend?”
Apparently Nathan’s sexuality wasn’t a problem for even the youngest member of his family. Drew realised he was smiling. From the mouth of babes. An adult would have hedged around the question for ages and then still wouldn’t have asked outright.
“No, sweetheart. Drew’s a friend.” Nathan’s voice sounded so tired and weary, and it made Drew’s heartache for the pain his friend was going through.
“But you said you were going out on Friday,” the young girl insisted.
“We go out a lot. We enjoy each other’s company. You go out with your friends, don’t you? Chelsea came with us to the zoo yesterday, didn’t she?”
As Nathan tried to explain the situation to the young girl, Drew found himself nodding along in agreement. In fact, he had been at a serious loose end all week without Nathan around. He enjoyed Nathan’s company and found it reassuring to discover the feeling was mutual, not that he had any reason to think otherwise, but it was still good to have it confirmed.
Drew chuckled at the girl’s tone and decided to join the conversation again. “You went to the zoo yesterday without me. I haven’t been to the zoo in years. I know you can’t see, but I’m pouting here.”
Nathan laughed and the sound warmed Drew from the inside out. It barely lasted more than a few seconds, but it gave Drew a great sense of achievement. “Fool.”
Nathan’s next words were directed at the child again. “Bethan, you’ve made Drew all sad because we didn’t invite him to the zoo. Whatever you do, don’t mention the candy floss.”
“Candy floss?” Drew asked in confusion.
“Pink, fluffy and full of sugar. Just like Bethan, here.” Nathan explained. “I think you’d call it cotton candy.”
Bethan giggled, the sound floating down the phone to Drew. “Uncle Nathan, you just did. Maybe Drew can come next time you take us to the zoo.”
“I’d like that,” Drew confirmed. He’d been joking before, in an attempt to lift the spirits of his friend. But as warmth wrapped around him that had nothing to do with his duvet, he realised he really would like to spend the day at the zoo with Nathan and his family.
“Come on, go and have a wee. It’s time to go to sleep in your bed.”
Nathan chuckled this time. “Drew, I was talking to Bethan.”
“Good, because I had a wee in the shower and I’m already in bed.”
“It means gross. You’re in bed already?”
“Nothing to do without you here.” He closed his eyes in disgust; he hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “I sound pathetic.”
“No, you don’t.”
Drew snorted in disagreement.
“Well, maybe a little. I’m going to have to go. I’m sorry about Friday. You should go out anyway. Hopefully I’ll see you at school Monday. Hwyl fawr.”
Drew knew what that meant. “Night, Nathan.”
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Second in our line-up this week, Lovers Entwined
Ewan Matthews is one of Boston’s leading genealogy experts. When a would-be bridegroom comes looking for confirmation that there are no skeletons in his ancestral closet, Ewan considers turning the job down. Trey Capell is a jerk of the highest order and yet Ewan experiences an infuriating attraction that’s easy to justify. Trey’s exactly his type—a carbon copy of the man Ewan’s been looking for his entire life.
Harder to explain is the sense of recognition that leaves Ewan speechless the moment Trey steps into his office. Or the stomach-churning sensation at the thought of casting the job aside.
Trey gets more appealing by the day, leaving Ewan struggling with forbidden desire for his client. Desire not helped by strange voyeuristic dreams that have started to haunt his sleep. Dreams that appear to be an echo of the past.
“Why only five minutes?” Did Trey sound disappointed?
“‘Cos I’m knackered and I want to go home.” Ewan flicked his gaze up to the dark slick of hair, straight and pushed back from Trey’s forehead, and tried not to wrinkle his nose in distaste. All the life and colour was gone from the normally wayward, but temporarily tamed tresses. To deflect from his aversion to the hairstyle, he indicated the high-fashion shirt Trey was wearing. “Anyway, it looks as if you’ve got somewhere to be yourself.”
“Not really to my taste,” Ewan said as diplomatically as he could muster. In his opinion, it was hideous and did nothing to define Trey’s wide chest or highlight his narrower waist. “I veer from traditional to scruffy casual with little space for anything in between.”
When Trey’s smile dimmed a little, Ewan added, “As long as you like it.”
“Yeah.” Trey plucked at one of the oddly shaped buttons, and left Ewan with no idea if Trey liked the shirt or not.
“I don’t have to meet the others until eight.”
Ewan resisted the urge to state that this gave Trey enough time to go home and change his shirt. It appeared Trey-baiting had quickly lost its appeal, or at the very least, left a nasty aftertaste.
“Honestly, I’m ready for a shower and then bed.”
“I can be all yours for the next hour and a half.” There was nothing suggestive in Trey’s tone, but that sentence following the word bed created interesting and unwanted scenarios in Ewan’s imagination. And surely the flash of something in Trey’s eyes had been the desk lamp reflecting in the pale blue irises, not a flicker of interest.
“Come on. You can’t be that tired.” Trey followed this up with a pout, which should have annoyed the hell out of Ewan, but worryingly, he found kind of endearing.
“An hour.” Ewan gave up against the charm offensive that Trey appeared to be bombarding him with—God he must be tired if he was succumbing that easily to Trey’s allure. “I’m looking into Tristan’s father. You could help me with that.”
The vague dream connection to the eighteenth century would be too difficult to justify. He could continue with that line of inquiry tomorrow, when he was alone.
He had yet to tell Trey about the first two dreams. He certainly wasn’t going to start with one where he’d woken with the tang of gunpowder in his nostrils and a sense of despair in his heart.
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A Personal Story
I wish David Attenborough was my grandpa.
Okay, not really, but sort of. I had pretty great grandpa’s on both sides of my family even though they are both long gone. But I’ve grown up with David Attenborough, with his passion and belief, and his programmes and books have shaped my view of the world and the animals we share it with.
Animals and their plight, especially at the hands of stupid humans, is something that is really important to me. My favourite animal, the Red Panda (aka The Red Cat-Bear, which is an adorable name and not used enough IMHO) was listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2015. The wild population of these gorgeous animals is between 14500 and 15000. And the reason we are losing red pandas at a rate of thousands a year? Deforestation and hunting. Hunting, to sell the furs or to trade live pandas to private individuals looking for an unusual pet, is illegal. Destroying their natural habitat, not so much. And don’t even get me started on the plight of the Orangutan. Or how much damage intensive logging is doing to the environment.
*Climbs off soap box* Here, have some cute photos of unusually active Red Pandas from Manor Wildlife Park in Wales that I took earlier this year.
And, if the first line of my post seems familiar but you can’t work out why, click the embedded YouTube link below and see something other than frolicking red pandas that makes me happy.
Yes, I adore Doc Brown, whether he’s rapping, doing stand up, or acting. And for all of you that didn’t click the link I bet you’re having weird visions of some alternate version of Back to the Future!
So you’ve learnt a couple of things about me. Why don’t you share something about you in the comments?
Want one last titbit? If you’re making me a cup of tea, never, never ever, put the milk in first.
About the author:
Thank you for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for our Grand Finale featuring a few more of Lillian's books, our author interview, and one more chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!