Heavy Hitters

Hey all!

So last week I had my seventh cover reveal since I started writing in 2011, this time for the first story in my Caribbean Tales, a series of standalone books set in my hometown of Puerto Rico. And yes, you read that right. All stories will be standlones. No cliffies this time around, so check it out!. ;-)

 

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His toughest opponent is himself.
World Boxing Champion Santino Malavé has been fighting since he was a kid. Poverty, domestic violence, and emotional abuse were early contenders. Guilt and self-loathing were beaten into him by his homophobic dad at an impressionable age and now machismo, an integral part of the Latino culture, rules his life. In the ring he’s undefeated. Outside the ropes life constantly hits him below the belt. It takes a sucker punch from his best friend to finally knock the denial out of him and force him to face his true nature like a real man.
A natural born entertainer, Luca Betancur has grown up laughing, performing, and celebrating life among his tight-knit family under the scorching Puerto Rican sun. He has also dedicated years to deny his sexuality, study what the Bible really says, and pursue fame. Singing the wrong note on stage is not a mistake the multi-platinum award-winning singer would ever allow. Falling in love with a man is not a transgression his devout family would ever accept. The ties that bind him are strong, but the pull toward his childhood best friend may just be enough to tear it all to shreds.
Anger, mistakes, bigotry, and the need to conform put up a good fight. Can they break down the walls erected by Catholic teachings and a chauvinistic society, or will their relationship lose by technical knockout?

Release Forecast

Hi, everyone! I hope you’re enjoying some signs of spring in your neck of the woods. It’s been a dreadful winter here in NYC, and I know I’m ready to see some more sunshine and warmer temperatures. I am also very much looking forward to the release of Hearsay, which is the reason I’m writing.

central-park-in-winter-new-york-city1Sometimes life doesn’t follow the path you expect it to, kind of like a surprise coating of snow in late March when you are way over the cold and more than ready for flip-flop weather. Well, in my case, it’s more like life dumped a foot of snow in my back yard. As much as I love writing, I still have a day job to maintain. It’s mentally draining and requires long hours as a general rule. Some unforeseen circumstances have made it even more so and limited my writing time to almost nothing. Not to mention by the time I get home my brain is slush, kind of like all this melting snow.

ExhaustedSo as much as it pains me to do so, I have to tell you all that I am pushing back the release date of my latest novel, Hearsay.  Do I want to?  No. But I respect you all too much to rush the process and offer you anything less than my best. I am really sorry to postpone and I  hope you all can bear with me for another month. I fully expect to have Hearsay ready for publication by April 30th.

central-park-in-spring-plain-and-simpleThank you in advance for understanding and for being the best readers a girl could ask for!  And since I’ve stuck with the weather metaphors, here’s a little surprise peek of sunshine from behind the clouds!  Enjoy!

Hearsay

Chapter One

Rumor.

Gossip.

Unverified information.

Hearsay.

The legal term for testimony in a court proceeding where the witness does not have direct knowledge of the facts asserted and normally considered inadmissible as evidence against the accused… unless the charges were child molestation. In that case, all bets were off, and a third, fourth, or even fifth party allegation alone could land a person’s ass in jail before they could even say “what the fuck is going on?”

At times it seemed as if serial killers could get more leniency than a person accused of child molestation, and that was without a formal indictment. Once the rumors started, the suspect was presumed to be guilty by mostly everyone, whether there was any physical evidence or not. Derrick remembered seeing this happen in a similar case sensationalized in the news when he was a kid and had taken a closer look once he started practicing as a family law attorney. He never thought it’d happen to a dear friend.

“I can’t believe those fuckers are turning everything I said against me.”

The angry words were followed by retching so violent it made Derrick wince as he stood by the bathroom door.

“Are you okay?”

Stupid question, yes, but Derrick needed to make sure Tyler would be fine. After fifteen minutes of tightly embracing the porcelain god, Derrick was afraid the guy had nothing left to throw up but his guts. Well, maybe his heart, considering the reason why he’d shown up at Derrick’s place at eight o’clock at night unannounced.

Tyler hadn’t said much after his “I’m being falsely accused of sexually molesting a minor” greeting the second he came through the front door, but Derrick was a lawyer. He knew, without having to be told, how deep of a shithole Tyler was in.

“I cooperated with them.” Tyler’s voice sounded like gravel. No surprise there. His throat must be raw and bleeding by now.

“Who exactly do you mean by them? Who did you talk to?” Derrick asked carefully, praying to God his suspicions were wrong, then cursing under his breath when Tyler confirmed his biggest concern.

“People from the Administration for Children’s Services and that investigator the police depart—” Tyler’s words were interrupted by some more retching. When he managed to finish the sentence, his voice sounded muffled, as if it was coming from inside the toilet bowl. Yuck. “The police sent an investigator. I talked to her.”

Big mistake.

Huge!

Falsely accused people often decided to talk to the authorities to try and clear things up, but instead they only managed to talk themselves into a corner. Derrick’s stomach tied in a knot.

“That’s the worst thing you could’ve done. What the hell were you thinking, talking to a police investigator without lawyering up?”

“I have nothing to hide.”

“You should’ve called me the moment you found out there were allegations against you,” Derrick barked. “Have you any idea how much damage—”

“I thought that if I talked to them, they’d see it was all bullshit and leave me alone.”

“Fuck, Tyler.” Derrick took a deep breath and forced himself to not kick the door open and strangle his friend. “You can’t possibly be that stupid.”

“And that motherfucking piece of shit Brandon,” Tyler snarled once the retching had stopped. “How could he do this to me? How could he believe I’m capable of sexually molesting a kid? How could he get ACS involved without talking to me first?”

“Brandon?” he repeated, trying to put a face to the name that had obviously started this mess. “Are you talking about the former rent boy who now volunteers at the safe house?”

“Stripper,” Tyler corrected him after flushing the toilet. “He worked as a stripper to put himself through college and did his social work internship at the safe house. He’s been on the payroll for over a year now.”

“How come I didn’t know that?”

The moment the question came out of his mouth, he shook his head and dismissed it with a hand gesture. Derrick’s curiosity usually got the best of him but the answer wasn’t important, nor would it change anything.

“It isn’t like I discuss every aspect of the Coleman Safe House with you, do I?”

“Maybe you should,” Derrick suggested, looking down and smiling at his yellow tabby when he rubbed his head against Derrick’s leg.

“It gets worse,” Tyler mumbled through the closed door. “They asked about you.”

Derrick’s blood froze in his veins. “Come again?”

“Robbie Yates—the kid accusing me—also said he saw me having sex with a few dudes and—”

“The police think I exposed myself to a minor?” The question came out as a shriek. He didn’t care. He was freaking out a bit.

“They wanted to know about my sex life.” Tyler’s voice was so low, Derrick could barely make out the words. Or perhaps it was the thunder of his own heart that was stopping him from hearing them. “I haven’t been with that many guys. I— Shit. I didn’t think…”

“You didn’t think it’d be a big deal to share the details with them,” Derrick finished, all of a sudden feeling tired and about ninety years old.

Lumière rubbed himself against his leg again. Most likely he’d sensed Derrick’s distress and wanted to cheer him up, but when Derrick failed to pick him up, he meowed loudly and disappeared behind the bedroom door.

“I’m sorry… For what it’s worth, we never had sex at the safe house, you and I. They can’t possibly charge you with anything.”

“I know that.” But Derrick couldn’t afford the scandal. Neither of them could.

“I don’t think they’re going after you.”

“I hope they aren’t, but they may question me.”

Even if the investigators didn’t give a shit about Derrick or any other casual or temporary lover, they’d want to build a strong case against Tyler. He was a big fish. A gay man running a safe house for runaway gay teens mostly on sponsorships and government grants and charity money was gold for the media. Derrick couldn’t take any risks. He wanted both of their names cleared of all suspicion of wrongdoing as soon as possible.

“So one of the kids went to Brandon and accused you of sexually molesting him, and Brandon went straight to the authorities without warning you first. Is that correct?” Derrick used the tone of voice he reserved for his clients: practical, efficient, and direct. He knew from experience it relaxed them a little and made them feel more understood.

“Correct. And to think I went on two dates with that fucking prick.” Tyler yanked the bathroom door open. He looked like shit. “I need to borrow a toothbrush.”

“There’s a new one in the medicine cabinet,” Derrick said absently. “Isn’t Brandon like, twenty-three?”

“Almost twenty-five,” Tyler corrected through a mouthful of toothpaste. He never stopped brushing his teeth, but he sought Derrick’s eyes on the mirror above the sink. “I had sex with him.”

“Recently?”

“About a week before Robbie talked to him, and he believed that little scumbag who’s falsely accusing me.”

“He’s an employee of the Coleman Safe House. He’s legally bound to report incidents of alleged child abuse.”

“He didn’t witness anything!” Tyler threw the toothbrush in the sink, rinsed his mouth quickly and faced Derrick. “That’s why I decided to talk to them. I’ve done nothing wrong, and this is fucking crazy. I’ve dedicated my entire life to helping gay kids in need. They just have to take a look at my record to see tha—”

“Nothing you’ll say or do at this point will convince the authorities that the abuse didn’t occur,” Derrick interrupted him. “You know how it is, Tyler. How many times have you taken the word of a minor over that of their parents or guardians, only to find out the kid was lying through their teeth?”

Tyler stared at Derrick for what felt like hours. He opened his mouth in an attempt to talk and then closed it again when he realized he couldn’t refute those words. Derrick watched him break out in a sweat. The veins in his forehead and neck looked ready to pop. His normally rosy skin lost all trace of color. And just when Derrick was about to take a step closer, Tyler turned around and buried his face in the toilet again.

Derrick rubbed his face and started pacing back and forth in the short hallway of his fifth floor walk-up apartment. “Jesus…fucking unreal…” he muttered under his breath, his mind working overtime, searching for a way to help his friend out of this mess.

It wouldn’t be easy. He knew his opinion was tainted by personal experience, but he didn’t trust the Administration for Children’s Services to conduct a fair investigation to begin with. Tyler’s mistake of talking to them and the cops without having any legal representation made things a thousand times worse. They’d most likely have to deal with several accusations of behavior consistent with that of a child molester by the time the authorities were done twisting things. The general population would want to lynch Tyler before it was all said and done.

“I’m fucked, aren’t I?” Tyler asked from the bathroom door. His voice was trembling, and his eyes were bloodshot. He looked like his strength had abandoned him, but he managed not to cry. Somehow he was holding onto his dignity, and Derrick admired him for that.

He wasn’t as strong, though. “Crap.” Tears ran down Derrick’s cheek, and two steps later he was in front of his friend, hugging him tightly.

“What the hell am I going to do, Derrick?” Tyler sobbed on his neck, ultimately losing his battle against his own tears. “How am I going to get out of this?”

“Shhh …” Derrick caressed his friend’s auburn hair and gently rocked him in his arms.

“Will you represent me?”

“You need a criminal defense attorney, sweetheart,” he explained softly. “Preferably one with experience in child molestation cases.”

“I can’t affo—”

“Let me worry about that.”

“But—”

“No buts. I have a plan. Trust me.” He pulled back and dried off Tyler’s tears with his fingers. “Come to the kitchen. I’ll make us some coffee while you give me the details. I’m going to need every single one of them in order to get you out of this mess.”

 

The Tuesday Teaser is All About Hearsay

I know most of you are waiting for the next installment in the “By Degrees” series, but I wanted to give you guys something else before “Six Degrees of Agony” comes out.

Hearsay_200x300_border“Hearsay” is the first installment in “Bylaws,” my new series about attorneys working for Acosta, Bradford & Chadwick, LLP, a fictional lawfirm located in NYC. It is also part of a trilogy within the series, soon to be followed by “Daresay” and “Gainsay.” All three titles will feature the same couple, Roman Bradford and Derrick Swain, and will follow their journey as they deal with damaging rumors, the judicial system, and life’s curveballs while they make their way toward coupledom.

Here’s a little excerpt for you. Enjoy!

Le excerpt:

Prologue

 

Roman Bradford had heard the rumors more times than he cared to remember in the past month. He’d heard them from his partners, close friends, a few acquaintances, his accountant, and even from the attendants at his gym.

He had ignored them every single time. He’d refused to believe. He’d been eager to move forward. His future was looking promising again. He hadn’t wanted anything to get between him and Derrick, the man who had captivated his attention from the moment they met.

For a little over four years Roman had admired him from afar. He’d watched Derrick become comfortable in his recently acquired attorney’s skin. He’d watched him grow confident, earn promotions, and win impossible cases while Roman’s personal life fell apart.

He’d collected the pieces.

He was ready to start again.

It wasn’t until very recently that he’d acted on his attraction for Derrick. Even though he was free to do so, he forced himself to consider carefully the possible ramifications of getting involved with one of his employees. If things went sour between them and Derrick turned out to be vindictive, Roman could get sued for sexual harassment or misconduct at the very least. He knew this, and after the debacle of the past few months and consequent distress, the last thing he wanted was to risk a similar mess. Yet he’d been unable to resist going after him.

Roman was rather subtle in his pursuit of Derrick. The lingering, veiled glances during the two hour monthly meeting with the firm’s associates and the coincidental encounters in the building’s lobby, the cafeteria, and court, had progressed to casually running into him in Central Park during their lunch break for the past eight days. They’d gotten to know each other better during their conversations. The attraction was mutual and almost palpable, and Roman didn’t doubt for a second they were compatible in every important way. Things were going so well between them that he’d decided the previous night it was time to take the next step and ask Derrick out to dinner and maybe the ballet. Hell. He even wanted Derrick to be his date to his parents’ dinner party in three days.

But those damn rumors had been waiting for him when he got to his office in the morning. They’d been louder than ever, too… so loud it was impossible to ignore them anymore.

Roman shook off his preoccupied thoughts and glanced around him. The Pond was one of his favorite places in the city. A little piece of heaven smack in the middle of his demanding world. It never ceased to amaze him how easily he could find solitude here despite the hundreds of people that walked by the water’s edge every day.

He watched the ducks in the water and regarded the trees that would soon start changing colors. Once again he marveled at the beauty and simplicity of the Gapstow Bridge, then closed his eyes and blocked everything. He was a bundle of nerves. Today, more than ever, he needed to soak in the peacefulness that surrounded him. 

“Have you decided on a present for your parents’ wedding anniversary yet?”

Roman shifted his body toward the man who had managed to make him feel so much in such a short amount of time and tried to give him his undivided attention. Talking to Derrick was an absolute pleasure, and in addition to being physically perfect in Roman’s eyes, he was also sensible and genuine.

“I’m going to take your advice and give them a vacation to some exotic destination.” He brushed off a few crumbs from Derrick’s tie and smiled when he noticed him shudder.

“Asia? Somewhere in Europe?”

“My mother goes shopping in Paris once a month,” Roman said with a fond smile. “She still tries to drag me along with her to carry her bags whenever my dad refuses to follow her around.”

“It won’t be easy to surprise her and your father, then.”

“I think the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru would be nice.”

“Have you been there?”

“I went with Alan and Sergio when we were still in law school.” He took his glasses off and put them in the pocket of his suit jacket. “Mom loved the pictures we took. That’s why I think she’d enjoy it.”

“From what you’ve told me I get the impression she’d enjoy a week in the jungle with no plumbing, as long as she’s with your father.”

“They’re inseparable.”  

“Forty-five years together,” Derrick said wistfully. “Almost a lifetime spent with the one person they promised to love forever.” He sighed deeply. “Your parents are very lucky, Roman.”

“What about your parents?” Roman asked. “Are they still together?”

“No. They weren’t as fortunate.” He shook his head slowly. “Not like they didn’t want to. I mean, they loved each other so much… My mom chose my dad over her own family, a career, and a very comfortable life. Like your parents, they wanted to die together, but it wasn’t meant to happen that way.”

Derrick glanced at him shyly from under thick, long lashes, probably thinking it was too soon to be sharing such personal details. He smiled at the guy, encouraging him to continue. Derrick’s candor was one of his most endearing personality traits, and Roman would hate it if all of a sudden he started feeling self-conscious.

“Papa didn’t have an education, you know? He worked as a janitor at Columbia University. That’s where they met, when Mama was a freshman. She wanted to be a lawyer, but my grandparents cut her off when she refused to end their relationship. She moved with Papa to his tiny apartment and never looked back. Papa worked so hard to provide for us… We didn’t have money, but we were happy.” He blinked rapidly, but his tears didn’t disappear. “Mama got very sick with lupus when I was a twelve. She didn’t make it.”

Roman resisted the urge to reach out and hug Derrick. It was too soon for that kind of gesture. “I’m sorry to hear that,” was all he said.

“They had a good run, but instead of enjoying his marriage, Papa had to be strong for us kids and watch the woman he loved die slowly.” Derrick grabbed a napkin from his lunch bag and wiped the few tears that were now spiking up his lashes. “I respect him so much for it. I don’t know if I could do the same if I were in his position. I don’t know that I could deal with watching the love of my life waste away. Christ, I’m a terribly selfish person, aren’t I?”

Roman’s heart dropped to his stomach when he heard those words, but his voice sounded normal when he tried to re-assure Derrick. He might not like the guy’s reluctance to be with someone who was sick, but he understood it.

“It wasn’t only your father watching a loved one die. She was your mother, too, and you were a kid. That had to be a very traumatic, painful experience for you and your siblings.”

“It was.” He smiled a little. “Thank you for listening to me blab.”

“I always look forward to hearing you talk about whatever you want.” Roman caressed Derrick’s cheek softly with the back of his hand. “So blab away. I don’t mind.”

“You sure about that?” Derrick’s flirty smile made Roman’s heart skip a few beats. “Because I think I’d like to talk your pretty ears off every chance I get.”

“Sounds like a great plan,” Roman admitted, returning the smile.

“Yeah?”

That seemingly innocent question almost knocked Roman flat on his back. So much desire was packed in it; so much expectation and hope. His feelings weren’t one-sided. Derrick was along for the ride, and Roman was so happy he could’ve jumped up and down, if only his mind wasn’t plagued by doubts.

It can’t be true It can’t be true It can’t be true…

Roman put his almost untouched grilled chicken wrap inside the bag. “I need to get back to the office,” he said quietly.

Derrick frowned. “Is there something wrong?”

A hysterical chuckle almost escaped Roman.

Where to begin…

Apprehension had him by the balls. He also had a sore throat, a headache, and swollen lymph nodes. He felt like crap.

“Roman?” Derrick’s beautiful amber eyes were clouded with uneasiness and concern. “Did I say something wrong?”

“No!” he rushed to say. “Of course you didn’t.”

“Then what is it?

Roman looked away and cursed under his breath. “I might be getting a cold,” he said in a louder tone.

“I can get you some tea if you want.”

“No, no… It’s fine… I’m fine… Look, I need to go now. There’s something I have to do.”

Derrick grabbed Roman’s hand to stop him from getting up and he obliged, hoping this wouldn’t be the last time he was so close to the other man.

“Can you please tell me what’s going on?” Derrick almost begged.

Roman couldn’t say a word. Uncertainty had gotten a hold of him and it was making him sick to his stomach. He wished he didn’t have to go, but as much as he liked the guy, Roman knew he wouldn’t be able to even look at Derrick again until he’d found out whether the rumors he’d been hearing were true.

Don’t let it be true, please… Don’t let it be true…

He pulled his hand from that soft, firm grip he wanted to feel all over his body, and took several steps back. “I need to go.”

“Will you be back tomorrow?” 

Derrick was trying not to sound hurt, but Roman heard it in his voice anyway. He saw it in his eyes. And because he couldn’t offer an honest answer, he chose to not say anything at all. He just turned around and walked away from what he knew was his second chance at love, hopefully not forever.

Please God… Please. Don’t let this be the last time I talk to him.

 

 

Drum Roll, Please!

Six Degrees of Separation, the long anticipated sequel to Six Degrees of Lust,  had an early release. It is available at Amazon and All Romance Ebooks, and coming soon to Barnes & Noble.

Thank you so much to all my readers for supporting “By Degrees” and waiting oh-so-patiently for this new installment. It took a while, but I know you’ll like it. :-)

Happy Reading, SMac’ers!

Disasterology 101 is Out!

Hey all!

 

Just a quick note to let you all know that my newest novel, Disasterology 101 is now available from MLR Press. Head over there and check it out. Meanwhile, here’s the blurb. :-)

 

 Kevin Morrison had it all. A house he worked hard for, a loving wife, and three beautiful children. But it wasn’t until his marriage ended that he realized what the void he’d felt almost all his life meant. Coming out as a gay man at thirty-six is not an easy feat, but he is determined to be true to his heart. Meeting a man who shares his values, and is good with his children would be a bonus, but when the guy arrives in a uniquely wrapped package, and has very specific handling instructions, Kevin needs to decide if he’s up for that kind of love.

Obsessed with order and symmetry, and a paralyzing fear of germs, Cedric Haughton-Disley has lived with isolation and loneliness as long as he can remember. Desperate to be normal, he makes some much-needed changes in his life. If he can commit to his treatment, he might very well be able to procure some quality of life… even if that’s all he can get, as finding love and having a relationship are only possible in Cedric’s wildest dreams. But when a chance encounter leaves Cedric wishing for more, he decides to take a leap of faith, and pursue the guy he wants.

Together the two men make an unlikely match. Cedric needs organization, and Kevin represents chaos. In order to stay together they both need to compromise, but will they be able to deal with Cedric’s issues and the potential disaster, or let it break them apart?(

Coming in August…

*WARNING FROM THE AUTHOR:
By Degrees is an ensemble serial with continuing story lines. Six Degrees of Separation is the second installment, and it must be read after Six Degrees of Lust. Thanks.

In the sequel to Six Degrees of Lust, F.B.I. team leader Samuel Shaughnessy and bar manager Machlan O’Bannon are exploring a new phase in their non-relationship. The intention is to take it slowly but power plays are still their favorite activity, and it isn’t long before lines begin blurring. After ending their friends with benefits agreement no rules are left in place to guide them, and soon enough the only thing that’s clear is that neither man is fighting hard enough to re-establish the boundaries.

Their particular situations haven’t improved in the three months since their first encounter. Sam is still focused on his immediate family issues, and everything indicates Mac will have to go to war with his own family before he can reclaim his freedom. The last thing they need is additional complications.

But when the opening of a night club brings Mac to New York City and a break in the Leviticus investigation leads Sam to Houston, they discover how closely their worlds have been connected from the very beginning. Hiding from the life-altering collision is not an option. Will they take the easier road and go their separate ways, or will they come to terms with their past and take a chance on each other?