Wednesday, 12 September 2012


From the wilds of the Brontes' bleak moors, to soft summer nights in Stratford upon Avon, and chance meetings in a cosy tea shop, join us for a delightful journey through the romances of England.

Six stories full of desire, of men loving men, written by English authors known for their passionate tales of love, lust, and rekindling romances.

Stories included in this Anthology:
 *   Child of the Storm by RJ Scott
*   William's Heart by Meredith Russell
*   The Cameraman's Tale by Chris Quinton
*   By Design by Lisa Worrall
*   This Morning by Sue Brown
*   A Good Feeling by S.A. Meade



*   Child of the Storm by RJ Scott
Ben Hyland shifted in his seat as they passed signs for M1 North. They were about twenty miles into their journey and they had left London where tangled roads had given way to endless motorway. The guy in the driving seat hadn't said much so far. Then again the hired car, a brand spanking new Ford Focus, was right-hand drive and given his companion was American there had to be a lot of concentration going on behind his hazel eyes.

The very last thing Ben wanted to do was snag the driver's attention by talking needlessly. Still, they had a long way to go up the spine of the UK and to have silence for hundreds of miles would definitely grate on him. Ben Hyland liked his quiet times with his books and his academic study, but when in social situations he hated the dreaded dead parts. That was why he had a reputation as being the one who spoke before he thought. Just to fill the empty space. He searched his brain for the right thing to say to A, an American, and B, possibly the most gorgeous guy he had seen in years, perhaps ever.

"What film is it that we are scouting locations for?" Ben finally asked. Breaking the silence felt good. "Am I allowed to know now that we are in the car?"

His companion Cory mumbled-surname, the aforementioned American with the blond hair and the come-to-bed eyes, flicked a glance at him. He looked so damn serious and there was a definite frown line marring his otherwise smooth forehead.

Eyes back on the road he answered. "It's not a secret. Of course you're allowed to know. It was all in the briefing pack that my company emailed you." Unspoken was the added 'didn't you read it, you idiot'.

"I didn't get an email," Ben defended himself.

The frown briefly reappeared on Cory's face.

"I'll follow that up," he said. "You should have received the full confidential file for all film details." Cory's company was scouting for more than the one film location and Ben was just one of four lecturers at South Bucks University that had applied to assist. He bet every one of the other three had received their briefing information. Bloody BT Mail. "The short straw we pulled is a costume drama set in Yorkshire."

"Yorkshire? I love Yorkshire." Ben was excited, certainly not feeling for one moment he had drawn the short straw.

"You mean you didn't even know where we were going?"


*   William's Heart by Meredith Russell

"Nana, come and see!" The young child tugged at the sleeve of her grandmother's coat and shifted impatiently from one foot to the other. She waved toward the river, excited to see two large swans standing at the water's edge. One of the swans stood to its full height and spread its wings out wide. The elegant bird let out a throaty noise as it flapped its wings, causing a plume of soft, white feathers to fall away and float to the ground.

Jude Jennings pointed his Nikon camera at the girl and digitally captured the moment. The young girl was wide-eyed in awe of the oversized birds, and he admired her innocent fascination. Briefly, he dipped the camera and smiled. The world was a magical place when viewed through the eyes of a child.

Looking through the viewer, he slowly adjusted the focus and zoomed in so her face filled the shot. He guessed she was maybe three or four years old as she was out in the middle of a school day. Short blonde curls hung from beneath her pink sunhat and framed her face. Her blue eyes were bright as she laughed excitedly. She was a sweet little thing.

Taking the shot, Jude lowered his camera and looked down at the screen. He took a moment to examine the half-dozen images of the swans, the girl, and her grandmother. The mid-April sunshine provided unique lighting and the warmth of the day radiated from the people within the pictures. April was a strange month for weather and lighting. It was unpredictable at best. In a single month the UK had seen snow, rain, and sunshine. He looked around the park he was sitting in. Today was a brilliant, almost summer-like day, and the weather had brought out an eclectic mix of people.

Both locals and visitors filled the large open space adjacent to the River Avon. Scanning the river bank, he tried to guess a little about his subjects. On the grass, lying on two huge blankets was a group of five scantily-dressed teenagers. He figured, like him, they were from the college. Two of the girls in the group were making notes from an oversized textbook, a third was trying to angle an electronic tablet to read in the sunlight, and the two guys they were with seemed far more interested in getting themselves a tan.

There were teenagers in school uniforms playing football, an elderly couple walking hand-in-hand through the park, each seasoned line on their faces creasing as they stopped and smiled at each other before sharing a kiss.


*   The Cameraman's Tale by Chris Quinton

"I want the girl in the road," Dominic Waldron insisted, slapping the relevant file in the centre of the table. "Fuck it, who's running this bloody show anyway?"

Mark pushed up his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He wanted to say Goldstream Media, but since Dominic owned at least half of the production company and was the executive producer for his own show, it wouldn't carry much weight. Besides, Mark preferred to keep a low profile around the man. Next to him, his fellow researcher swore under her breath.

"The headless woman has more impact," Jerry Kent said persuasively. Head of Research--and Mark's immediate boss--he also had a good eye for visuals and what the TV-viewing public liked. At least, the preferences of those who avidly watched The Dominic Waldron Experience. "It'd be perfect for the opening show--mysterious inn, hidden cellar, reconstructions with Royalists and Roundheads, the woman in a tight bodice..."

Across the table, Trevor Johnson, the special effects expert, nodded enthusiastically. "We could have cannons, muskets, and pikes, plus the torture chamber in the cellar. The road girl would only have screams and mists and a crashed car."

"There's more in-depth material on the headless woman," Jerry added quickly. Dominic's scowl darkened and Jerry indicated a thick file pushed to one side. "We've put together that much from online research alone. Once Heather gets going on the libraries and Mark chats with locals, there'll be a lot more to play with. And there's a five-star hotel only six miles away. The road girl is out in the back of beyond."

Mark doodled on his notepad, writing his name, then Jack's, and framing the Mark Renfrewand Jack Faulkner in a circle of vine leaves--until he realised the circle looked more like a heart. He scribbled over it, flushing, and tuned back in on the arguments. Being openly gay was one thing, being a soppy romantic was another thing entirely.


*   By Design by Lisa Worrall

"O M G!"

Wincing at the sounding out of the letters, Rob forced a smile onto his face as his client studied the tattoo he had just completed for her. When she'd handed him the design she wanted on her shoulder blade, he'd had to resist the urge to groan. The headstone with the Grim Reaper standing behind it, complete with scythe and glowing eyes, wasn't exactly the first paranormal tattoo he'd undertaken. But then what did he expect? After all, he'd opened a tattoo shop in the centre of York--purported to be the most haunted town in England. Not that Rob had ever seen a ghost himself, but if it kept sending tourists and locals alike into the shop to get their spook on, he wasn't complaining.

"Rob, it's perfect... just perfect," Chloe--he had to search for her name for a moment--squealed. "I'm going to recommend you to all my friends. They'll be fighting to get under your needle."

Rob tried not to flinch as she ran her scarlet red nails through his purple tipped, heavily gelled hair. It had been a long day and he knew it was far from over. He wanted to slip into a nice warm coma, but he had a client scheduled for eight-thirty in the morning that he had to come up with a design for, not to mention the four other tats he had promised to have drawn up for various others. If he got out of here by midnight, he'd be very surprised.

Extricating himself from her talons with as polite a smile as he could manage, he helped her on with her shirt and pointed her in the direction of the reception desk. He held back the chuckle at the annoyance on her face at his dismissal... but she really wasn't his type. True, he could tell her he was gay and had been in a relationship since college; but he knew with one look she was part of the ninety per cent of women who were sure he just hadn't met the right girl yet. And she was, of course, totally convinced she was that girl.


*   This Morning by Sue Brown

At the shrill sound of the alarm clock, Neil automatically hid his face in the pillow to avoid his husband's arm which flew over his head, as it did every morning, to smack the snooze button. Despite Neil regularly pointing out that the clock was on his side and that he was perfectly capable of dealing with the alarm himself, Baz insisted on turning the damned thing off. After ten years, Neil had learnt to keep his head down to avoid being hit in the face.

Still buried in the pillow, Neil heard his husband groan loudly. He raised his head to see Baz rolling onto his back, groaning again as he stretched out the length of the bed, accompanied by the sound of joints clicking and popping. When Baz finally settled, Neil rolled into his side, appreciating the warmth of his body for a few more minutes before he had to face the world.

"Time to get up." Baz yawned as he patted Neil's back.

It prompted an answering yawn from Neil. "Go back to sleep. You don't have to get up today." Neil stroked Baz's furry belly. He grinned at Baz's satisfied hum and his unconscious arch into Neil's caress.

"Still gotta get Alex to school, though. He doesn't get a day off, thank God. Today it's just you and me."

"I'll take him to school. You stay in bed." Despite hating to get up in the morning, Neil thought it was only fair he made the effort this time. As a local GP, the poor man got precious little time off. Normally Baz drove Alex to school on his way to work while, as he was self-employed, Neil got up later and tidied the house when everyone was gone. Neil's commute to work was walking into the back room, his office for many years. He was appropriately sympathetic to Baz's grumbles about the commuter traffic he had to face daily.

"That would be wonderful. Are you sure?"

Neil pressed a kiss to Baz's shoulder. "I'm sure. Go back to sleep." He grinned as Baz murmured his appreciation.

With five more blissful minutes before he had to get up, Neil took the opportunity to snuggle with his husband, pressing in as close as he could. Baz's hand slid down Neil's bare back to cup his arse.

"Mmm, this is nice," Baz murmured. "I could get used to this."


*   A Good Feeling by S.A. Meade

He wasn't the usual weekday afternoon customer. Normally, by three, the lunchers had gone and the blue-rinse brigade moved in, lingering over pots of tea and slices of cake.

He was a good thirty years younger, for starters. He sat in the corner, chin on hand while he stared out the window. The late afternoon sun touched his short brown hair with fire. His face was turned away from the room while he watched shoppers drift by on their way to or from the Wednesday market. He was a study in stillness and silence while the old biddies, trading recipes and knitting patterns, chattered around him. It was rare for anyone to walk into the tea shop and make me look more than once. This one made the breath catch in my throat.

I inhaled deeply, picked up a menu and walked toward his table.

He glanced up and grinned when I approached.

I gave him my best smile and handed him the menu. "Good afternoon. Can I get you something to drink?"

"A cappuccino, please. A large one."

I scribbled the order down on my pad. "Would you like anything else? There's the menu and there's also the daily specials on the board." It was the same spiel I gave to everyone. There was nothing I could put into the words to let my interest slip. Anyway, I'd promised my brother that I wouldn't chat up the customers. I wasn't about to start now, not while Liam was letting me hang my paintings on the walls of the cafe. I needed all the sales I could get.

He glanced past me to the board.

"Can I have the lemon cake?"

"I think we have a slice or two left. Anything else?" I wanted him to order more, give me something nice to look at for longer than it took to drink a large coffee and eat a wedge of cake.

He looked at the menu once more. "All right, you've talked me into it. I'll have a piece of the stilton and bacon quiche as well."

"Good choice." I offered him another smile. "I'll go and get your coffee."

"Thank you." He smiled back, his eyes warm.

I lost a little bit of myself at that moment.

"I won't be a minute." I headed back to the kitchen, stopping only to tidy an empty table and take a payment at the till.

"I saw you." Hayley, my sister-in-law, glanced up from the sink.

"Saw me what?" I took the quiche from the fridge and set it on the counter.

"Chatting up the bloke by the window." She smiled. "Not that I blame you. He's hot."

"And probably straight." I cut a slab of quiche and placed it on a plate. "They usually are."

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