Karma’s Kiss by M.C. Roth – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes M.C. Roth who is celebrating the recent release of Karma’s Kiss. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Karma isn’t the worst curse to have after all.

Zack is running from his family, his past and a curse that has tainted his life since childhood. Fleeing his temporary home for the sake of his ex-boyfriend, Zack becomes stranded in a snow drift in the middle of nowhere, wearing nothing more than a spring jacket and an old pair of running shoes. Resigning himself to freezing to death, he is rescued by Eric, an irresistible man who treads the line between kindness and discourtesy.

Zack quickly realises that Eric’s home is a different kind of frozen hell. There is no electricity in the tiny one-room cabin, no running water and definitely no Wi-Fi.

But Eric is more than just a man. He is the only one who seems to be immune to Zack’s curse, and he has secrets of his own. Eric may be more dangerous than anything Zack has ever seen before.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and the death of a secondary character.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“No. No. No,” said Zack as he pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor. The ancient car responded sluggishly, a full second passing before the engine vibrated with a purr that made his foot go numb. The bald tyres spun, trapped in a sheet of ice and snow that coated the road and the lone vehicle.

The storm sagged against the windshield as the wipers tried lethargically to keep up, leaving large, frosted streaks with every swipe. With each pass, the ice crystals grew denser, coating the wipers with budding globs of ice.

Another burst of wind battered the side of the car, fluttering against the door and buffeting the tiny cracks in the vehicle. A trickle of cold air brushed against his chilled knuckles, and a shiver cascaded though his body.

The vehicle lurched closer to the ditch that had disappeared into the blizzard’s cloud. The tyres caught, edging sideways in a frozen rut. He jerked at the steering wheel, but there was no response as he was buried deeper in the drifts.

Zack’s heart pounded as he lost control of the wheel and the engine sputtered. But he barely noticed as the car lurched into a stall or as the air got even colder through the flimsy heating vents. The storm was the furthest thing from his mind.

It had happened again. And, of course, it had chosen the moment when the biggest snowstorm of the decade was blowing its way across the lakes. The radar had probably gone from red to purple then black while he’d driven with no destination in mind.

The roads had been relatively clear a few hours before, when he had fled to his car, putting it straight into second gear before he even had his seat belt on. He had hit the highway, flipping a virtual coin to choose the exit he’d take before the heavy flakes had started drifting down from the grey sky.

He shuddered. His darkness—his curse—the thing had haunted him for as long as he could remember… It always seemed to choose the worst moments to rear its ugly, jealous head. This had to be one of the top five of all time, though.

He had tried to keep moving. He’d tried to leave before he could put anyone else at risk. ***

Then it had all gone wrong. One word and a spurned rejection, and his past had caught up with him with the force of a starving tiger. He’d staggered as he’d felt the blood drain from his face.

He had fled before anything could happen to the man who he had almost started to like. If he’d had the opportunity, he could have developed full-blown feelings, which were more dangerous than his curse.

He’d grabbed everything in sight that belonged to him, leaving more behind than he’d taken. His socks and underwear were lost beneath the bed and in the basket of laundry, but he hadn’t had the time to retrieve them. They weren’t the worst things that he’d ever left behind.

He’d had run to his ancient Honda, breathing hard by the time he had tugged the door open. As he’d sped away, he’d left another chunk of his past behind him, the sweet memories tainted by his bitter curse. The traffic had steadily thinned, until he was the only car in the midst of a forest that seconded as a snowy hell.

His trusty Honda was only five years younger than him and had more problems than he did, which was saying a lot. Its most recent issue was that it apparently couldn’t drive through more than two centimetres of fresh snow.

He fumbled with the key, glancing out into the bleak stretch of swirling snow as he tried to start the engine yet again. Stomping on the gas, he waited for the RPMs to climb into the red zone before popping the clutch and putting the car directly into second gear. First gear didn’t exactly work, and on ice, it was its own death trap.

There was a shuddering jerk that had relief flooding his gut, until the car rocked once and stalled back into silence. The dials dropped and the fuzzy radio station faded until the barest hint of the country song vanished under the sound of the wind.

“Shit,” he said as he slammed his hand against the steering wheel. It shuddered, barely holding on to its rigging after his repeated abuse. He could imagine the wheel finally tumbling off as he merged lanes on a highway doing one-hundred-and-thirty-five kilometres per hour. I’m lucky like that.

His palm ached from the hit and the cold that was steadily seeping into the car, but it didn’t stop him from slamming the wheel a second time. His thumb caught the edge of the horn, but the blaring sound was swept away on the wind.

The temperature inside the car noticeably dropped another few degrees, and his breath turned into a misty fog that coated everything it touched. The car’s heater was lukewarm at best, and without a working defrost, ice had started to crust on even the inside of the windshield.

He turned the key again as he popped the car back into neutral and pushed the clutch to the floor. He shivered as another gust of wind cut into the Honda. His thin jacket was best suited for balmy fall days, but it was the only one that had been in sight as he’d scrambled to leave. His toes were numb in his sneakers, and his hands? Well, he was afraid to look at them, because he wouldn’t be surprised if a few fingers were already missing. His gloves had been one of the many things that he had left behind, and his hands had been aching since the snow had started.

The car key turned under his hand, jingling with the other attached keys and mementos that he had picked up on his travels. There was a tiny metal sandal that he’d picked up in a beach town and an iron sun from a gift shop that he’d found in the middle of nowhere. The rest were worn, their edges smooth from their constant motion. He kept them close, so he wouldn’t have to look back and remember.

The key turned, with the promise of escape and a hint of heat. Silence. Not even a putter from the flooded engine. His gut churned as a shiver racked his body. It was so freaking cold, and according to the last clear announcement on the radio, the storm was just getting started.

He grappled with the horn, pushing the button as hard as he could. There had to be someone close by who would come to his rescue if they heard him honking. People in the city might not have looked twice, but he was pretty far into the wilderness, on the only road that probably ever saw a plough in winter. People were different out here—lonelier.

The button clicked under his palm as the battery finally gave out. The same battery had lasted him twenty years, so, of course, it would choose to fail him when he was about to lose his toes.

Zack took a shuddering breath as his vision blurred and his heart sank. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to keep the warmth from escaping. Perhaps everything was finally catching up with him. Freezing to death wouldn’t be the worst way to go. He’d seen worse before—so much worse. His stomach clenched as memories fluttered to the surface of his mind. He tried to push them away before he could retch.

“Look at the snow. Just look at the snow,” he said, holding himself tighter as he tried to focus on an individual flake in the whirling mass—anything to leave the flashes of his past behind.

Beyond the window he could see bits of the forest through the gaps in the gathering ice on the windshield. The road was nearly invisible, with no tyre tracks except his own behind him. Even those were almost gone now.

A green bough fluttered in the wind, dumping its heavy load onto the ground below it. A bird fluttered from the branch, battling against the wind as it took off. For a moment, it looked like it would lose the fight and be tossed into the nearest tree trunk. It pumped its wings faster, finally triumphing over the storm.

There were no hydro lines along the road or lamp posts that would guide a traveller along at night. It was a tourist’s nightmare. He cursed himself, wondering if he should’ve taken the other fork in the road that had probably led along a path that was closer to the city.

A smudge of colour caught his eye as it flashed along the very edge of the trees. The trunks grew close together, dark and foreboding within the mass, and their limbs danced and swayed in the wind, dumping the snow back to the earth with each pass. There was so much movement that he wondered if he had imagined the blur.

He squinted and leaned closer to the window, trying to make sense of it through the fluttering snow. It could have been a deer. He’d already seen a few along the way, looking ready to jump out at his car and double his insurance. Or it could have been a bear, given how far he’d come, although he’d only ever seen them on television. The dark beacon had looked too small to be the creature he’d seen on Planet Earth.

He spotted it again as the wind stilled and the blizzard cleared for a moment. It moved through the snow with a fluid grace that could only belong to an animal who could survive a harsh winter. Nothing battered or beaten lived in this cold, and no predator could thrive without hunting in the perpetual storm that was February.

It grew closer with every loping step, until it seemed larger than what he imagined a bear would be. It was fast, too, cutting through the drifts as if it weighed nothing. Zack knew how hard it was to walk through snow that deep, which was why he usually avoided it at all costs. That, and he really didn’t want to get his too-tight jeans wet.

Zack scrubbed the inside of the window with his nails, bits of ice stinging his numb fingertips. His breath frosted it over again, until everything blurred.

It could have been a dog with how dark the colouring was, but he’d never seen a dog that big. A bear would definitely make more sense, but according to the television, bears hibernated in the winter.

The ice on the window thickened into an opaque crystal as he pressed his forehead against it, desperate to see what was coming. It was running at a pace that was hardly possible over the covered ground, gliding over the snow without seeming to disturb it at all.

A bubble of fear simmered in his gut as he pictured a bear breaking through his window with its massive, clawed paws. He was small enough that he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight, but there was still enough meat on him to make a decent meal, he supposed.

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes to try to ground himself. The wind around him paused, the car going suddenly still and silent. He snapped his eyes back open, looking through the tiny gaps from his fingertips. There was nothing but the dark tree trunks capped with pure white.

The seat creaked as he freed himself from the seatbelt and lifted himself to his knees, pressing against a strip of clear glass. He blinked, rubbing his eyes to remove the imagined fog, but nothing appeared. The snow was undisturbed, except for the partially covered ruts from his own tyres. There were no footprints, and no animal was out in the wind.

I’m officially losing my mind.

About the Author
M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Website | Goodreads | First for Romance

Buy the book at your favorite online venue or First for Romance.

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Winter Blogfest: M.C. Roth

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest. Leave a comment for a chance to win one free ebook of The Drumbeat of His Heart as well as the sequel A Song for His Heart.

A Fondue Mishap

Every year on Christmas eve, my family gathers for fondue. Unlike cheese or chocolate, we use little pots of hot peanut oil that stay warm over an open flame. With our special forks, wedip our meat of choice into the oil and cook it to greasy perfection.

We never miss a single year, and I’ve dragged myself to that table even on years when I had the flu. We load up our meat, or in my case battered mushrooms, and feast until we can’t eat another bite. Once comatose from calorie overload, we pass out in front of the fireplace.

It’s a very ritualistic thing for us, fireplace included.

The most memorable fondue happened when I was about twelve. As my father moved the pot of hot oil from the stove to the holder on the table, the handle gave way, sending the entire thing splashing my way.

The lit fuel from the burner spread across the table with the help of the oil, sending the whole thing up in flames, decorative tablecloth and all. Of course, I was the only one already sitting at the table because I was starving. I lost my pants to a grease stain, but avoided bursting into flames myself.

A good fire extinguisher saved the day, although the cookies did taste a bit funny with the extra bit of frosting.

I can imagine Trent and Ian starting a Christmas tradition like this of their own, and guaranteed, it would go up in flames.

A brush with death delivers Ian into Trent’s life, but there’s more to Ian than he shares—a hidden life, a hidden career and secrets that may tear them apart.

When Trent is almost hit by a swerving Corvette, he has no idea that the driver will change his life forever.

Freezing cold and soaked, Trent pulls the strikingly attractive Ian from the wreckage. Ian is everything Trent has been looking for in a man—beautiful, sexy—and he needs a place to stay for the weekend.

Trent is out and proud, and he prays he can keep his hands to himself with the gorgeous man under his roof. But Ian is the one who follows Trent into the shower, shows him things that Trent never imagined and takes the final thread of Trent’s virginity.

After a weekend of passion, Trent finds himself falling for Ian, even though they live a country apart. But there is more to Ian than what he says. A hidden life, a hidden career and more lies than Trent can imagine.

Ian’s secrets may tear their hearts to pieces—or transform their desires into something more.

M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter

Buy the book at Books2Read.

The Drumbeat of His Heart by M.C. Roth – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes M.C. Roth who is celebrating the recent release of The Drumbeat of His Heart. Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE eBook from the author!

A brush with death delivers Ian into Trent’s life, but there’s more to Ian than he shares—a hidden life, a hidden career and secrets that may tear them apart.

When Trent is almost hit by a swerving Corvette, he has no idea that the driver will change his life forever.

Freezing cold and soaked, Trent pulls the strikingly attractive Ian from the wreckage. Ian is everything Trent has been looking for in a man—beautiful, sexy—and he needs a place to stay for the weekend.

Trent is out and proud, and he prays he can keep his hands to himself with the gorgeous man under his roof. But Ian is the one who follows Trent into the shower, shows him things that Trent never imagined and takes the final thread of Trent’s virginity.

After a weekend of passion, Trent finds himself falling for Ian, even though they live a country apart. But there is more to Ian than what he says. A hidden life, a hidden career and more lies than Trent can imagine.

Ian’s secrets may tear their hearts to pieces—or transform their desires into something more.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes involving drug use and homophobia. There are references to an alcohol problem, public sex and voyeurism.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Rain splattered against the slim fabric hood that was pulled over his head. The water leaked through the flimsy fabric and pressed into his hair, making the strands clump and drip down the back of his shirt. The sky was the colour of dusty ash left too long in the fireplace and the air was thick with ozone.

Trent shivered and pulled the hoodie closer as he tried to keep some semblance of warmth against his skin. The forecast had predicted a beautiful, sunny spring day with a temperature of twenty degrees centigrade. The sun had lasted until he’d stepped out of the office to go home after a nine-hour shift trapped behind a dusty window. He’d touched the pavement and the clouds had loomed in as a virtual monsoon opened above his head.

Walking to work was as much of a blessing as it was a curse. He had no car payments, but he was stuck walking through any storm that decided to roll in. Clouds had a habit of waiting until he left the safety of the building before they unleashed their wrath.

The cracked sidewalks were stained dark with pools of water gathering in every dip and cranny. The few buildings around him were lit up bright against the grey sky, and their signs beckoned anyone who happened to be passing by. Their brick was antique, with lines of grout that had crumbled over time. It gave them more character than the new-builds in an actual city. Their bleached Christmas lights, that were meant to be spring decorations, were charming and the most modern thing about them besides the updated espresso machine in the café.

A burst of yellow swerved along the slim street, and its tyres splashed through the puddle of a blocked storm drain. Water burst up like the landing of a flume ride and smacked against Trent. Gravel and bits of sodden leaves struck him, sticking and clinging to every light hair on his naked shins. A trail of sand curled down his forehead and dripped into his eye.

“Dammit,” he spluttered as thick mud trailed down into his mouth. The taste of tainted water and decomposition made him gag and he spat into the swirling mass around his feet that was searching for a way through the cracked sidewalk. He stopped to watch as the yellow Corvette straightened and swerved back away from the kerb where it had struck the puddle that had completely drenched him. It was a manoeuvre he might expect out of a teenager who might deliberately try to soak unsuspecting pedestrians.

Instead of pulling straight along the thin road, the Corvette kept turning as it lost control on the plane of water. It looped back to the other side of the street and directly into oncoming traffic. There was no squealing of tyres or frantic running as doom approached, only the patter of rain on his soaked hood.

A rusty feed truck, tracking towards the light in the opposite lane, cleared the Corvette by a few centimetres, blaring its horn as the car crossed its path. The yellow machine swerved again, its tyres finally catching and squealing as they threw off bits of black rubber. Trent could just make out the frantic movements of the driver through the dark, tinted windows. His stomach clenched and the hairs raised on the back of his neck as he watched the scene unfold.

Sounds gurgled together as metal struck metal. The pop of tyres burst against his eardrums, accompanied by the squeal of aluminium and the snapping of glass. The muffled thud of airbags joined the fray a second later, then a shout as the bumper of the Corvette crumpled into a parked suburban van.

Trent was moving before he’d fully registered the crash. The mud and leaves were forgotten as his hood fell back and the rain pounded against his face. One of his sandals, slick with slimy water, slipped from his foot, nearly sending him down in the middle of the road. He managed to recover, running lopsided with one foot aching as it slapped against rough pavement.

The vibrant yellow handle was slick beneath his hand as he pried at the passenger door. The cracked window blurred his view so that he could only make out the shape of a person pressed between a white air bag and a black seat. There was no movement inside, not even the frantic flailing he’d seen just before the car had crashed. The handle was locked tight, resisting every pull that he made.

Trent leapt over the hood of the car, neatly avoiding where the two vehicles were entwined in an angry embrace. The adrenalin coursing through his veins gave him the boost to make it almost all the way across before his naked calf snagged on the car’s wet surface. He fell over, narrowly managing to keep from falling to the pavement on the other side.

Despite the terrible noise that the crash had made, the hood of the Corvette had hardly any damage, except a pressed curve along one headlight that folded both the fender and the hood. Shattered glass was strewn along the road, hidden beneath the murky puddles. The suburban had been crushed where it had been struck along its broadside. It was one of the only weak points in the gas-guzzling tank.

Trent stumbled as he found his balance on the other side of the car. There was a coffee shop only a few feet away, and people were gathering at the window and pressing their curious faces against the glass. A handful of customers made it outside, shouting questions over the din of pouring rain. Phones were up, hopefully calling the police and not taking a video of his failed leap.

The pounding of his heart washed away any more sounds of the gathering crowd and their calls from behind the window. The handle of the driver’s side was slippery under his hand and it took two pulls to realize that it too was locked tight. Luckily, the window on this side was broken and scattered like a thousand glistening waterdrops. Rain poured through the gap and onto the driver, spreading across the seat and floor of the vehicle.

Trent’s gaze flickered back and forth as his senses pulled in every detail in a quick assessment. Sleek black leather was polished to a perfect finish, and the smell of sweet, smoky cologne mixed with just a hint of copper. A song was humming on the radio, dark and thick with the promise of love. In the seat was someone who made his staggered breathing come to a halt.

The man looked nearly crushed beneath the wide, white airbag that was pressed to his chest. His eyes were closed, with his head tilted back to reveal a split lip that was quickly swelling. A drop of blood smeared down his lips to a sharp chin that was shaved clean except for a few stray hairs just under his lower lip. His head was as smooth as his chin, with the dark outline of ink against his skull.

The driver fluttered open his blue eyes, dazed and staring as he gazed slowly around the inflated interior. They settled on Trent before going wide with panic.

“Are you okay?” the stranger asked him, his voice strained with his chest still tight to the airbag that was slowly starting to deflate.

“You’re asking me if I’m okay?” asked Trent. “Buddy, you were just in a car accident. Is anything broken?” There was blood on the man’s forehead, but just a small smear. He could just be concussed and confused.

The man paled until he was almost the same white as the airbags. “I lost control and almost hit you,” he said as he looked around the interior of the ruined car, apparently taking in the pierced leather and damp veneer. “I swerved, then I don’t know what happened.” He pushed at the airbag and it sprang back like a child’s bouncy castle at the local fair.

Trent reached through the broken window, trying to avoid the prickling glass that stuck up from the ruined frame. He grasped the door lock from the inside and opened it with a quick jerk.

“Can you stand? We should get you out of there,” said Trent as he pulled the door open. There was no smell of gasoline, only ozone and fresh rain, but he still expected that the car might explode at any moment. The airbag now hung like a shrivelled grape, revealing that the man was still buckled into his seat. His legs were folded, even with the spacious legroom, and his body was thick, filling every bit of available space.

“I think so.” The guy took in the gathering crowd as he finally managed to get free from the airbag. He reached for the seatbelt buckle, but his shaking hands skimmed uselessly off the button.

“Here… Let me.” Trent moved in close and hooked his hand around the belt, sliding down until he met the buckle. The scent of cologne and something else masculine filled his nose as he pressed close enough to feel the heat of the driver through his sodden clothing. His stomach flipped and his face flushed hot as he looked away from blue eyes. He felt for the little red button on the buckle and pushed hard. It was stiff in his trembling fingers and resisted his thumb.

He took a deep breath and couldn’t suppress the shudder that made its way up his spine. The man smelled so good that it was going straight to his groin and shutting down what was left of his thoughts. His body responded against his will and he became aware of the press of his peaked nipples against sodden fabric, so sensitive and ready.

A second shiver wound up through his shoulders. His hand slipped from the buckle to touch the smooth fabric of the man’s pants. It was soft and sturdy under his fingertips and looked more expensive than his entire soaked ensemble.

“You okay?” the stranger asked into his ear, so soft that it made his hair stand on end. He met blue eyes, watery and streaked with red, along with the strain of fear. It was the fear he saw that gave him the strength he was missing from his fingers.

“Just soaking wet and freezing. Sorry.” He finally found the clasp again and the man was free with a persistent push. Trent drew himself out of the car and back into the beating rain. The heat left him as he pulled back, and he shivered in earnest this time.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” The stranger grimaced and leaned forward as he grasped the yellow roof to pull himself out.

The car must’ve been sitting lower on the road than Trent had first realized. The man was absolutely massive. Trent was just under six foot himself, but he was still half a head shorter than the hulking figure. The stranger wasn’t skinny either, but thick and broad like a football player who still had his pads on. Trent couldn’t believe he’d managed to fit into such a fancy vehicle at all.

“I called the cops. They should be here soon,” called one of the onlookers who had managed to wiggle in closer. Trent turned to the voice, giving her a nod of thanks when he recognized her as a local.

The stranger cursed as he looked back at his car. “This is why I shouldn’t get new cars,” he said with a shake of his head. He smoothed his hand over the hood, down to the crinkled corner that now looked more like an accordion than a fender. There was nothing of the headlight left except for a shell of plastic lined with metal and a shattered bulb.

“I really don’t know anything about cars, but it doesn’t look as bad as it sounded,” said Trent as he followed him to look at the damage. Bits of glass dug into his bare foot as he made his way around. He glanced down to find his sandal floating just a few meters away, slowly making its way down the road in the streaming puddles. After he scooped it up, he slid it back onto his bruised foot.

“You’re really lucky, though. I thought that feed truck was going to cream you,” said Trent. Other than the dented corner, broken windows and smashed headlight, the car was in good condition. The SUV looked okay too, with just a hefty chunk out of the side.

“Is that what that was?” the stranger asked as he looked back along the road. The feed truck had pulled over to idle on the side of the road just before the light. The driver was already making their way back towards the Corvette.

“Shit.” The stranger glared at the approaching driver. The man was short and round with a coat that was much too thick for the weather. The colour of his jacket ran dark from the rain.

“Everybody okay? I can’t stop that quick with that old truck. New brakes, but the tyres are shit.” The driver stepped closer. There was the underlying scent of wet cigarettes clinging to his clothes and his meagre hair was flecked with bits of unidentifiable soggy fluff.

“We’re all good,” said Trent. He looked at the Corvette driver, expecting a reply, but the man was silent. His hands were clenched into fists behind his back and he had drawn up to his full towering height.

“Okay, well, I’ll take off then if everyone is fine. I’m already behind as it is.” The driver took a step back as he looked between the two. Trent offered a weak smile before taking a half-step towards the group of gathering people.

“Yep, no problem. Thanks for stopping,” said Trent as the driver turned away. He looked up to the man who was still bristling beside him. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

The stranger deflated and turned to Trent with a grimace. “Yeah. I was expecting a fight.”

“What? Why would he want to fight?” Trent looked around in confusion, then back to the retreating truck driver. He hadn’t seemed threatening in the least. The stranger shrugged.

“Some of the places I’ve been, there’s usually a fight when something like this goes down.” He smoothed his hand back down the car and frowned again at the crushed light. He was completely drenched now, with every inch of black fabric clinging to his chest and biceps as if he were wearing nothing at all. Trent forced his eyes away from the clinging cloth.

“You aren’t from around here then, I guess. Small town folks don’t really care much for a fight unless they’re getting paid for it.” Trent looked to the license plate, noticing the strange image and lettering for the first time. “Wow, you really aren’t from around here. Did you drive the whole way?”

“Three of the best days of my life,” the man said with a smile. “Name’s Ian. Thanks for your help, man. I appreciate it.”

“Trent,” he replied as he grasped the outstretched palm. Ian’s hand felt so warm against Trent’s, which was slippery from a mix of rain and a sheen of sweat. He was sure that his face was beaming red, hopefully hidden by the downpour.

“I’ll stick around until the cops show up, just in case they ask any questions,” said Trent. He leaned back against the side of the suburban and winced as his freezing shirt pressed against the only remaining warm spot on his back.

“Do you know any place I can get this baby fixed up?” asked Ian. “She’s a custom, so I usually wouldn’t let just anybody work on her, but I’m a bit out of my area here.” Blue eyes glanced around and his lips pulled into a frown at the sight of the meagre buildings, looking from the cracked grout to the crumbling brick.

“There is an auto shop about one block that way.” Trent pointed to the other side of the street. “It’s after six o’clock now, though, and I don’t think they’re open again until tomorrow.”

“Shit.” Ian cursed and kicked the thin rubber tyre. “Any hotels then? I don’t exactly know anyone around here either.”

“Uh no, no hotels. No taxis either,” Trent added. He crossed his arms and stuck his freezing hands under his armpits.

“I could just call a ride share.” Ian reached back into the car to withdraw his phone from where it was stashed in the centre console. Trent risked a quick peek—just a peek—as the man bent over from the waist. His pants had started to cling as they soaked through as well, and they left very little to the imagination. Trent bit back the noise that tried to escape and forced his gaze away.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” said Trent after quietly clearing his throat. “Welcome to the middle of nowhere. This coffee shop”—he pointed at the glass window that had mostly emptied of its patrons since the bustle had died down—“is the best one for fifty kilometres. I can say that because it’s the only one within fifty kilometres.”

Ian groaned and sank down along the side of the car until he was hunched on the kerb. “I think I took a wrong turn about two hours ago. I was supposed to be checking into the Marriott tonight.”

Trent couldn’t honestly think of the closest hotel that wasn’t a small operation instead of a chain. Even they were few and far between. Most were closed until the summer began to ramp up.

Ian looked utterly defeated, and it was pulling at Trent’s heart strings uncomfortably. His car was trashed, his body was bruised and his lip was still dribbling slow drops of blood. Ian’s eyes closed and he leaned back against the car, thunking his head into the side.

Trent shifted from foot to foot before shoving his hands deep into his pockets. He could hear his mother’s voice in his ear, telling him to make the situation right.

“You can stay with me for the night if you want,” said Trent with a shrug as he tried to downplay how much he liked the idea. The eye candy alone could last him for a decade. Christ, he would have to give Ian some of his pyjamas. That ass inside of a pair of too-small track pants would be drool-worthy.

Trent shook his head and tried to clear the image from his mind before it could spiral out of control. “I’m just a few blocks away. It’s only a one bedroom, but I can pull out the old air mattress.” He would happily sleep on the air mattress and give up his bed to Ian. Christ.

“You don’t have to do that. I mean, I almost hit you with my car,” said Ian as he stared at Trent like he had sprouted a few extra limbs.

“But you didn’t, and it’s kind of my fault that you hit the suburban.” Oh God, he sounded eager…way too fucking eager.

“That’s a bit of a stretch,” said Ian. His eyebrows couldn’t get any higher at this point, and he had started to lean back with a touch of caution.

Trent shrugged, glancing away and trying to play it off as much as possible. “It’s up to you.” He sighed as he had the strangest craving for a cigarette. Stress and excitement did strange things to him, especially brief grazes with his mortality. He hadn’t smoked since a one-week stint as a teenager. Every once in a while the need struck when the situation called for it.

“You know what? Sure. I’ll take you up on that.” Ian nodded.

Trent couldn’t stop the smile that went wider as Ian smiled back. That simple gesture made the man’s face light up in a way that went straight to his eyes. What was Trent thinking? A sexy hunk of a man in his house for the night? He’d never be able to keep his hands to himself. Well, he would, because consent was sexy, but it would be the hardest night of his life…literally.

“I’m gay though,” said Trent. He blushed as soon as the words left his mouth. “If that’s a problem, no big deal. I just don’t want you to feel awkward.”

Trent saw the sudden blanch, even as Ian tried to hide it, and it made his gut clench. Trent was out and proud of it, but every so often someone had a reaction to the news. Most people didn’t care, but a select few did. Those few always managed to get under his skin and keep him awake at night.

“You don’t have to stay with me. I’m sure you can find other arrangements,” said Trent, backpedalling quickly to avoid any sort of awkward confrontation.

“No, sorry… I didn’t mean…” Ian trailed off as he pushed himself off the kerb. “You just surprised me, that’s all. Most places, you don’t really say that to a stranger.”

Trent opened his mouth, not really sure what he was going to say. Where the hell had this guy been where he fought random truckers and people had to hide six feet into the closet? He couldn’t judge too harshly, though. The population of his tiny town was miniscule, and there were four churches smashed into it. Up until twenty years ago, no one would’ve announced it here either.

His thoughts were cut off by a piercing flash of lights as a police cruiser came around the corner and headed their way. He held out his hand to help Ian the rest of the way to his feet. The contact sent a wave of heat up his arm and under his jacket.

He bit back a sigh and turned to greet the officer.

I am so screwed.

About the Author M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

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