Green's Hill-Amy Lane's Home - News

Monday, December 30, 2019

Help! I'm locked in the house with my children!

LOL--no, seriously.

Well, the good news is we have heat for now, and the bad news is the water heater is... well, frizzing. So, yes, we DO get out of the shower into a balmy 68 degrees, but since the shower possibly dropped our core temperatures down to our blue and frozen toes, well, it's, uh, cold comfort. (ba-dum-bump.)


And ZoomBoy is sick!


The good news--and there is plenty--is that I am with my family, and while it's having a deleterious effect on my writing production (ie I have about two hours at night to actually get shit done!) it is, of course, my family--and they're delightful.

You may notice the picture!  Through no fault of her own--as in, she ordered them a good month and a half before Christmas--Chicken's present got here this morning. Mine says "Hail Santa!" and, yes, that looks a little, uhm, Santanic. I adore it. Also it fits me, and not much does. Mate's is a Batman ugly-Christmas-Sweatshirt--it's awesome <3 again="" chicken="" p="" wins="">
Well-- she DID place second with her Christmas gift to Squish this year. Squish's FAVORITE was a graphic novel that Squish has said--repeatedly and dreamily-- "Oh, wow--it's SO PRETTY!" Also it was beautiful and sad-- a teenaged girl's trifecta in storytelling, so go Big T!

And delicate as that is, I need to remind everyone that sometimes teenage girls can compete with the boys in the gross department-- witness this little exchange:

Squish: Dad, the cat smells like Mom's butt.

Mate: Oh God--no, just--

Squish: But he sits in mom's seat all the time-- here, smell him!


Me: Hey--I am not the only one who sits in that seat.

Squish: Okay-- so not Mom's butt, but he smells like--


Squish: Fine, fine. Whatever. He seems to like that seat anyway.

And speaking of cats--and cat names--the following just occurred to Mate:

"Nebula, would you--oh. Hey. We have a boy cat named Nebula and a girl cat named Steve.  And a, uh, girl dog named Geoffie. Is this a thing?"


And as for ZoomBoy, well, he's feeling a little better, but this evening as I was walking down the hall he jumped out of his bedroom ahead of me and hugged me until...

"What was that?" he asked.

"I burped. You were SQUEEZING me!"

"Oh." And thence proceeded to shoulder his way past me to run down the hall--until I grabbed his shoulder.

"No!" I told him. "You leap out of your door, tackle me, and squeeze me until I burp, then you shoulder your way down the hall? WHO TAUGHT YOU MANNERS!"

Mate called out from the living room, "I did! I'm sorry. That's me. ZoomBoy let your mom go first."


By the way--the grocery store is out of sparkling cider, and we are depressed. But without it, I'm pretty sure we'll still have a wonderful New Years Eve.

Friday, December 27, 2019

*yawn* That was swell!

Remember when we were little, and we wanted all the presents and all the candy and all the sweets? We wanted a thousand Christmas celebrations and a thousand family members and all the hoopla in the world?

Well, we're all a little older now--even the teenagers--and we have simpler wants.

The kids wanted clothes, because they don't get them that often, and they loved what they got. They wanted about one toy a piece--because they both have phones, and they know they're lucky, and they're constantly entertained. We got the older kids kitchen appliances--a toaster oven for Big T, and a blender/mixer wand for Chicken.

Everybody got a book or two.

And of course, chocolate in the stockings.

It was small. Dinner at my house, breakfast at my parents, with games afterwards. Back here at my house in the afternoon, where we all ate candy and hung out in a monosyllabic pack, huddling under blankets and hoping the animals would sleep on us! Us! Us! because they were WARM that's why!

It was a couple of lovely, peaceful, kindness filled days--and my family makes me proud.

And this morning? I post-Christmas miracle-- the guy came to fix the heater!!! Can everybody say hurray? Oh my God--I forgot what it was like to feel my toes!!! And as an additional blessing--hot water! I got a hot shower AND toes!  I hope I never take things like heat and cool and a roof over my head and children who love me for granted.

In the important things, I am so very blessed.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Few Observations

*  Black cats shouldn't sit on black cushions with their eyes closed.

*  If you have no heat and you have no hot water, it's perfectly acceptable to peace out of your morning shower.

*  Space heaters are kind little creatures and we should treat them well and give them thanks.

*  If it's raining outside and you have no heat and no hot water, it's probably better karma NOT to walk the dogs because they have no way to warm up.

*  If you have shopped recently and can make something warm and salty and filling while everyone huddles around the television like cavemen around the campfire, the no heat and no hot water becomes inconsequential.

* Blankets also help.

* If you REALLY missed your morning shower, finding out you DO have hot water just in time to do the dishes is sort of a bummer.

*  You shouldn't try to block an emergency hat if it's cold and rainy outside and cold  inside, because your hat will never dry, and the emergency will be over.

*  For the record, Witcher starts to make sense on episode four. It's a whacked out convoluted weirdo sort of sense, but it's there. Yes, it's there.

* Making a second emergency hat (because the first one turned out monstrously over-sized) with your  daughter who is ALSO making emergency yarn wear can lead someone to believe they have either A. Really succeeded, or B. Really failed as a parent.

*  Every year I need to remember that there will come a moment when I absolutely cannot work because there is crafting, cooking, and panicking to be done.

*  My time is now.

If I don't get online much in the next couple of days, may your holidays be lovely, peaceful, and bright, and may you find the sort of happiness with your families that I have found with mine.

And may your cats not blend into your living room chair, AND your office chair, so that you don't ave to freak out every time you sit down to make sure they're not gonna be squished.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Running Away

So, the heater is going to cost a grand--maybe, if we're lucky. It might cost four, we won't know until Tuesday. Yes, that Tuesday. The day before Christmas Tuesday.


I'll be honest-- when I heard that, I, uh, took a nap.

I was cold, I've been stressed and in pain, and I was up late last night. I got both kids from school, brought them home, and, uh, took a nap.

I woke up two hours later, and Mate and I watched movies.

And watched movies.

Hellboy, the new one. We'd taped All in the Family and Good Times. There was the season finale of Watchmen (and if you haven't been watching that, OMG YOU MUST.) In the middle of this, he got up and warmed up some leftovers and we stayed, huddled in our blankets, watching television. I got a lot of knitting done on the sweater I'm working on-- I'm still not sure if it will be done by Christmas, but I'm telling you, I'm willing to give it a go.

When the night was over, Mate got up to go to bed and I said, "Thank you for letting me run away."

He was all, "Sometimes, it's the only way we can face tomorrow, right?"

He was, of course, right. Sometimes, you just need to run away. But I'm back at my desk now--I found one of those lost pairs of hand warmers, so now I'm wearing them under the bigger pair of cherry red ones, and the alpaca cloak of the highlands really is the way to go for heat insulation.

We'll make it.

We've got an entire closet of blankets, and there's always wearing all your clothes.

And sometimes, we can run away and come back to a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Some Days Are Like That

Christmas shopping with Mate is one of my favorite good things from a bad place to have happened in the last decade.

I used to be one of those crazy people waiting the day after Thanksgiving for the doors to Toys-R-Us to open, and I gotta tell you, we gave our kids a lot of useless plastic shit in those days. But when I got pulled from my job in the high school, I wasn't allowed to talk to any of my teaching friends, which meant my social circle just disappeared, in the span of a really shitty hour.

The buddy I went shopping with wasn't allowed to talk to me anymore.

And I was a mess.

I would fade in and out of conversations--my attention span was non-existent, and I would cry randomly, for no reason at all. At one point in time, we had to pay $300 to replace a key fob I'd left in one of my bags of yarn because we just could't fucking find it, and every time I wandered the house to look, I burst into tears.

So imagine that kind of wreck around Christmas. I'm pretty sure Mate was afraid to leave me alone, but I had Squish with me at the time and we sat around and watched a lOT of television when I wasn't writing. But send me into a crowd of people at the mall?

I don't think so.

So we started this tradition of the two of us taking a couple of days off to go shopping. And it's been a lot of fun. It's an excuse to do something together and to talk and to enjoy each other's company and to discuss our favorite topic--our kids--and to laugh at the weird things you can buy for the holidays.

It's something I've started to look forward to.

But this year was hard--for a number of reasons--including my foot which was swollen and aching as we walked. And while I wasn't bursting into tears a lot, I was wandering in and out of attention, and Christmas shopping isn't as much fun when you don't have the resources you normally do.

Still-- we had some fun moments. We found out from the guy at J.C. Penny's that people tended to walk in off the street and steal socks. Not packages, just one from the package. I helped a woman who was looking for a salesperson, and when I told her, "Now THAT would be a miracle," she smiled. And then she was really grateful when I told her that simulated down was usually hypoallergenic polyfil, and real down would probably make her sneeze.

And then there were the mitts.

See-- I had actually MADE MYSELF MITTS. I had two pairs. Two pairs of mitts--and I'm used to losing half a pair sometime during the season, but this year, given how distracted I am, I went big. Like MUCH bigger. I didn't just lose one mitt. I didn't even lose a pair, or half of one pair and half of another.

No, this year, I lost four fingerless mittens--two matching pairs--and apparently the gods have them because I have tossed the damned house.

So in the middle of Christmas crafting--and at this point I have a sweater to finish and two scarves to make--I had to take a time out last night and make myself another pair of fingerless mitts. Because my old creaky fingers get cold, that's why.

Why are they bright cherry red? Because for reasons known only to the gods--and they're feeling tricky this year, as you may have guessed-- I had one skein of this color--ONE--in my stash.

But I got to tell you, they sure did look Christmassy.

And they kept my old creaky fingers warm in the oh-my-god terrifying chill of the high-forties/low-fifties that was this day. (East coast people, stop laughing. Stop it I say. We know who we are here, and we are wimps.)

And amid the uncertainty and the zoom brain and the hopes for a better tomorrow and the extra work to make that happen, I have to say, this bright cherry red reminder that I can make something concrete and useful sure did make a difference in the tenor of my day.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Busy, BUSY weekend...

Takes deep breath...

ZoomBoy's choir presentation was Saturday-- so for most of the week there's been picking him up late and trying to make sure we had everything from an iron to sour gummy candy to hair gel.

But it was worth it-- the presentation was FANTASTIC, and it lasted a good three hours (so, like, exhausting) and the middle was a raffle/silent auction that, well, sent us into a coma. But other than that, it was really festive, REALLY original, and really well done. My only complaint was that as a member of the basic concert choir, ZoomBoy was stuck in the back a lot--but that's okay. We could see him radiating sound and good attitude even from the back of the stage.

The basket of paperbacks I donated was made a silent auction item instead of a raffle item, which pleased me. I hope they made a lot of money on it--I mean, JUST the books alone were probably worth $150, but they were SIGNED and that makes them better.

Between ZB's rehearsal and his performance, we stopped at a Christmas tree lot--well, a VERY SKETCHY Christmas tree lot that only took cash and barely had a register kiosk and generally looked like the trees all "fell off a truck" and ended up in the parking lot of Sunrise Mall.

But that's okay--we pretty much couldn't afford a tree from a fancy lot--we had to take Sketch Enterprises and like it.

And like it we did...

We put it up today, and the big kids came over, and Mate got paid so there was a roast and rice--and Squish did all the decorating, but ZoomBoy pulled out his R2D2 lights that his sister gave him for Christmas last year.

And now, we have a tree, and I spent an evening listening to music, and my car is tuned into Christmas music for drive time and generally?

It really IS the season.


If you follow me on FB, you may have seen that I'm setting up a Patreon. So, most of the free fiction I put up here will now be on Patreon, for a small price.

I'm sorry for this--I love writing ficlets and just randomly posting here, but this will help supplement our income, and that's something we really need. I'm going to try to make it worth it to sign up for the top tier--I hope to be sending out .pdfs of previous fillets as often as I can.

Thank you all so much for your patience and encouragement in this--the comments on FB were really really supportive.

My Patreon page is right here:  And there are two posts up for public view. The fiction will all be for the tiers, so from now on, the blog will probably be about three times a week, and mostly family stuff.

But still here.

Being able to go back and find my birthday post to my oldest son from 12 years ago was sort of a tribute to why blogs are a good thing. I hope to keep blogging for quite sometime.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Baby Groot

Not much to report tonight--sorry!  

ZoomBoy is rehearsing for his choir program on Saturday--and picking him up late from school may seem like a giant pita but I remember band and drama productions of my own. I usually found a ride, because asking my parents was no bueno-- if they weren't working they were pissed that I asked and if they weren't pissed that I asked they totally didn't get the reason I might kind of like to be on time. Getting ZoomBoy from school is a chance to set that right. Big T needed it once or twice, but Chicken was almost entirely all dance and soccer. I'm pretty proud of ZoomBoy and his willingness to try any and all performing art. He's amazing. 

Squish performed last night--"Monologue-a-palooza"-- and some of the presentations were really great!  But a moment here, to shout out to the poor drama teacher, and the art of "making do."  She doesn't get a budget, people--hell, she didn't even get a heated MP room. They killed the houselights, but they didn't have a spotlight--all the performers were backlit from the lights on the stage.  They had two microphones--and old stands--so for Squish's skit, the only one with three performers, they put one of the microphones on the table, and the feedback/gain on the sound system was so loud we couldn't hear them.  

And, as the kicker, Squish was sick-- she'd been holding on all week just so she could perform. So, for the half-hour we were waiting for her in the freezing MP room, all we could hear was "hack hack hack"--as in, everybody there to see their kid heard it. I'm sure someone out there is going, "Who was that hacking last night! Whoever they are, you're sick and I'm pissed!"

It's a shame. She actually is very funny in a really unique way. She got into the car the other day and I told her about how, during aqua aerobics, the sun came out in the middle of the freezing fog. 

She said, "You guys were all like this!"  And then she did a spot-on imitation of Baby Groot. I've been laughing about it for three days.

Chicken (whom I don't talk about much per request) got accepted into the teaching credential program. *happy starry eyes*  Yeah. Chicken :-)

And Big T turns 27 tomorrow. For those of you who have been here since the beginning, uh, yeah. I'm a mother of a grown assed man. He really is the best of men, on his way to his BA in English, which is not an easy feat for him, working, and living independently. I'm proud of him every day.

Just for shits and giggles, I went back in time twelve years to the first blog about T's birthday I could find. This is from 2007-- Enjoy:  BIG T TURNS 15   I have to admit--it surprised even me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Jai/George -- The nature of secrets-- Part 10

Hey all-- thank you for the kind responses to last night's post. There is some true kindness in the world, and I am grateful.

And now, a little bit of Jai and George-- for you :-)

*  *  *

The Nature of Secrets

Jai didn't like to talk about his former boss. When you were a child and over six-foot tall and you had a reputation for defending the small and the weak on your block, you got picked by the local mob boss as muscle.

You got taken to a foreign country, whether you wanted to be or not, and put in charge of the boss's family, whether you liked them or not.

Jai had liked the younger ones--they delighted every time he smiled. Nobody was afraid of him, because he would scowl and wink and play.

But then his boss would say, "Don't speak to him. He's a boy-fucker. Just let him stand there and look scary."  And the children would stop smiling.

Jai had grown accustomed to this as his life before he'd started working for Ace. But Ace and Sonny were lovers, and it didn't scare them that Jai was gay or wanted Sonny so very badly, and he'd begun to relax a little. The thing he had, in the mountains, with George, his kind and delicate nurse, made him happy--but he kept it close.

His old boss would use it against him.

Jai had seen the boss kill a girl once, because one of his men liked her enough to be late to a meeting. It was better that George stay secret. Not that he thought Ace would do that--but if Jai could, he'd keep Ace and Sonny and Alba secret too.

Secrets were comfortable.

When Burton brought Ernie to Ace in October, Jai understood. Ernie was a secret--nobody should know. Secrets had become to mean more than just facts to Jai. They became people you wanted to protect.

But even Ernie, who was kind to Alba and Sonny could be an uncomfortable secret.

"Burton needs to come see that boy," Ace muttered fitfully while doing the bills behind the counter one night. Alba had gone home because she had school in the morning, and Sonny was making dinner. As had bought him an Insta-Pot and he'd become enamored of baked beans. Jai could only be happy George didn't have to share his tiny apartment on those nights--but he was a little sad he didn't tell George these things, because the thought made him chuckle all day.

His gas also terrified Duke, the tiny Chihuahua that Ace and Sonny spoiled like a princess, and watching the creature run around their little house yapping after Jai's unfortunate gastric emission had made everybody laugh for a solid half-hour.

George was always smiling, or trying to smile. Even when he'd felt like death he had made little jokes. Jai thought that maybe his George had a sense of humor, even about gas.

He sure hoped so.

Jai pulled his attention back to Ace and his statement. "He is afraid of being owned," he said thickly. "Ernie would be... dangerous, I think. To Burton's peace of mind."

Ace rolled his eyes. "That's everybody. That's me and Sonny--you think I've had a decent night's sleep since I saw him, that first day in the military? I can assure you, I have not."

Jai grunted. "Sonny is much maintenance. I imagine some lovers would let you sleep better." George wasn't high maintenance--but then, Jai wouldn't mind making him so.

Ace eyeballed him and Jai shifted as he sat. "You have somebody," he said, and Jai crossed his arms, feeling naked.

"That is none of your business," he muttered, before his promise to George rebounded to his head like a boomerang.

Ace just looked at him, eyebrows raised. "You are my friend and we take care of you. It should be my business," he said, no bullshit.

Physically Jai was much bigger. He'd killed men Ace's size with very little trouble. Jai was also very aware that he could no more hurt Ace than he could hurt the ridiculous, loud, irritating, dear little carpet flea that liked to place delicate little paws on Jai's chest while it licked Jai's chin.

There were some things a man--a real man--should never do.

He looked down at Ace and looked away. "He has asked," he said with dignity. "He has asked if you could know about him. Should something happen to me, you would tell him."

Ace grimaced. "Should we tell the--"

Jai shook his head. "No," he said, forbidding in his stomach. "Just... my former employer, he still sends men around."

Ace's jaw clenched. Jai had said very little--but the other muscle guys who had visited every so often to make sure Jai was "satisfactory" help for Ace pissed him off. More than once they'd offered to "protect" Ace's garage themselves, so Ace could "let Jai go." Ace was not a stupid man--he knew "let Jai go" was code for "have Jai killed." Ace had looked a cold blooded killer in the eye and said that if Jai was ever "let go", Ace would call up the man's boss and tell him that the killer had made a direct threat on the boss's life.

And Jai had told the man that in order to get to Ace, he'd have to come through Jai.

The men had left in a hurry after that, probably assuming that Ace and Jai were lovers, but as they disappeared, Ace said, "And we can only thank God Sonny was not here to see that," And Jai knew they were on the same page.

Sonny was their secret together.

And now George would be.

"Yeah," Ace said now. "I hear you. You don't want every dumb motherfucker on the planet knowing your business. Alba keeps my finances government issue clean--but I don't want those assholes pawing through my spreadsheets. Sonny can fix a car better than anyone either of us have ever seen--I don't want anybody looking for his fucking certificate. You and Ernie and Burton, you get invited into our house because we want you there. Anybody else comes in, they get a kick in the balls--"

"Or a knife in the ear," Jai said mercilessly.

"Or that," Ace agreed. He didn't flinch or qualify that statement, which is why Jai loved him in the same way he'd once loved his father, before he'd been taken from home.

Ace gave Jai his phone. "Put his number in," he said. "You can watch me text him once and then any contact after that, I'll run by you. Is that fair?"

Jai's throat felt thick and words were hard after that. "Da. Thank you."

He watched then as Ace punched in Hi--I'm Jai's friend--

"And employer," Jai interjected.

And employer, Ace Atchison. He wanted you to have my number in case we needed to reach you.

"There," Ace said, showing Jai the sent text. "That good enough for--"  The phone buzzed as he held it up, and Jai could read the next text.

Tell him thank you for me. I'm pleased to meet you. I'd love to know where you live so I could visit. Jai knows my hospital and my parents' names and my cat's name and I know really nothing about him. Tell him hi for me--George

Ace stared at the message for a moment and then looked back up at Jai, who was shifting uncomfortably.

"That?" he asked. "That's your guy?"

"He is..." Jai swallowed. "Personable."

"Jai," Ace said seriously, "you have to tell him who we are."

Jai crossed his arms. "I have tried," he muttered. "I told him what I used to do, and I told him... I tried. I am a bad person--"

Ace held up his hand. "No, you are a good person. But just spilling all of that information about himself--about you. That's dangerous."

Jai pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't know how," he said at last.

Ace nodded. "Understood. Here. Let me try." George, it's nice to meet you. You sound nice. Jai is a good man but he's very private. The things he tells you are his and yours alone. We'll meet when he's ready, I'm sure.  "How's that?" he asked, showing Jai the text.

"You said 'nice' twice," Jai told him.

"Do I look like a fuckin' poet here?" Ace asked, his voice pitching because, Jai understood, this was not really his wheelhouse.

"No," Jai agreed. "That is fine."

"I won't talk about you without your permission," Ace said, pressing Send.

"Thank you."

Ace let out a breath. "Now we need to go inside and eat. And be sure to tell your guy that by not having the two of you eat here at the same time when Sonny's making beans, you might have just saved his life."

Jai chuckled. "I had planned to."

"Good. Then he'll fit in just fine."

*  *  *

Jai saw George about a week before Christmas. Camping was damned cold, so Jai had rented a hotel room in Grapevine. It wasn't a great hotel, but then, they weren't really there for the amenities.

Their customary greeting lasted for about two hours this time--made longer, Jai suspected, by the king sized bed. When they both fell back into the sheets, panting and sweating, Jai wondered for the umpteenth time what it was about George that made sex so... so much bigger than having his cock stroked. He didn't know, but he was curious enough to lie on his side and trace the delicate lines of George's jaw as they both caught their breath.

"Your boss texted me," George panted, closing his eyes and tilting his head toward Jai's touch.

"Da. I saw."

George narrowed his eyes grimly. "He's just as bad as you at giving out personal information."

Jai darted his head in and licked the sweat from George's temple. Like the rest of George, it was delicious.  "We are private people," he conceded.

George looked at him unhappily. "When do I get let into your secret little club?" he asked, the plaintive note in his voice almost killing Jai.

Jai kissed his mouth, savoring. "You do not understand about secrets," he said, "because you have never needed to keep them."

"True," George admitted. "But why--"

Jai stroked his neck with the back of his hand. God, exquisite. "Because Ace and I have kept secrets," he said. "To protect people. We have killed to protect people. And you are now one of those people, you understand? Sonny is one, and Ernie is now one--"

"Who's Ernie--"

Jai grimaced. "He is another secret--but not one that should trouble you. But you see? Our place in the world is to protect secrets. Nobody can come into our house and rip apart our lives, because we have kept the important people safe."

George sighed. "Im important?"

Jai closed his eyes. "More so everyday."

"I brought you a present, you know."

Jai smiled. He did. It was a large jacket, all weather, so they could go hiking even when it was cold. "I do. I brought you one too." He'd brought George a Leatherman tool--useful when camping, but also for self-defense.

"I know. But do you know what I really want for Christmas?"


"A story--just one story, of your choosing, about your everyday life."

"Of course."

Which was how Jai came to tell George the story about how Sonny fed them all beans and Jai broke wind so badly it scared the dog.

George laughed until he couldn't breathe, and Jai smiled shyly. They ordered takeout, and as they were eating, he told George about how Ernie took the dog out for a walk and how Sonny tried really hard not to get jealous, but Ace was ecstatic, because it meant he and Sonny could have private time together without the dog watching them from his crate.

And then he told about how Alba snuck the dog treats she wasn't supposed to, and how the rest of them made sure the dog ate very very well because otherwise she'd make him fat.

When their weekend was over, he was embarrassed. "I'm sorry," he confessed humbly. "You asked for something real. I have been talking all weekend about an eight pound Chihuahua."

George's smile was bittersweet--but it was also accepting. "I wanted to know who you were," he said. "And I know you're a man who protects your friends, and protects your lover, and finds joy in small things, and can be content with people in his life who care for him. I'll be honest, Jai--it's more than I've known about any Herb, Steve, or Gary I've ever dated."

"Good." Jai held him, hugged him to his chest, for a long time. "Someday," he promised under his breath. "Someday, I will not live in such fear that you'll be taken from me. Someday, you can see my tiny life, my tiny garage, and I won't worry quite so much that you won't think I'm worthy."

George didn't say anything, but he hugged Jai just as tight.

After Jai let him walk away, both of them going to their cars and taking off back toward LA, he realized his sweater--bright green, a present from Sonny the year before, because every man nearly seven feet tall wanted to wear Christmas green--was wet from tears.

As he started his car, his pocket buzzed, and he checked his phone.

You're the most worthy man I've ever met. I'm proud to be your secret. 

His throat tightened, and he touched the face of it lightly.

Da. You are the most precious secret I've ever kept.

Merry Christmas, Jai.

Merry Christmas, George. There will be more to come. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019


So it's what we've always called a "top ramen weekend"-- money's thin, and doing anything expensive, including buying a Christmas tree, is off the table. 

But one of the adult children came over to do laundry, and play with the new kitten (who was actually her kitten, but was splendidly needy so she gave him to Squish as an early Christmas present) and I had a houseful of people. 

I pulled out some whomp-biscuit croissants and some marzipan (left over from Thanksgiving because who has this shit around in general, right?) and made almond croissants and yay! I'm a hero! And dinner, of course, is staples. 

In this case, pizza-dillas-- cheese quesadillas with a little bit of spaghetti sauce added--and I'm always surprised how excited they get about this. It's not really a "gather around the table" dish. For one thing, the table is now dedicated to ZoomBoy's homework, and he's got an assignment this weekend, but for another, they're really a one-at-a-time deal. 

Make one, cut it up, split it between two, do the next. Everybody's patient and grateful, and if one person hasn't gotten theirs, someone else will give them a quarter, until eventually everyone has eaten. 

When it's my turn, I sit down and eat my share and someone comes to get my plate so I can stay seated for a little while--which is kind. 

There is no, "Hey, why didn't I get any this time?" or "Hey--why did she get more than me?"  There's no, "Why didn't we get a Christmas tree again?" Everyone knows money is tight. Everyone knows I'm doing my best. And my children are not really kids anymore. They understand the nature of waiting your turn, and the nature of paychecks and of things beyond our control. 

When there's more money, I'll make spaghetti with meat sauce, or chicken and veggies, or we'll even do takeout, and everybody will eat at the same time--but they know this is not that night. Their willingness to pitch in makes it a good night. That and the fact that when we had money, I bought ice cream, and dessert is always a plus. 

We have lived through thin times before. When I was pulled from the high school and the writing hadn't yet caught on, I would get home from dropping kids off to school and be in tears from nothing but worry. 

My husband would hold my hand and tell me it was okay. We probably wouldn't lose the house. My publisher held my hand and told me it was okay--I wasn't a one trick pony-- there was more to me than teaching. 

I learned to have faith.

I've needed faith in the last few months--and it's never easy, especially during the thin times, to believe more is coming. Just like the kids who trust I'm doing my best, I've learned trust too. 

Being a grownup means sharing in adversity as well as plenty. It means not making things harder on people who are doing their best. It means waiting your turn when the plenty comes around, because there's not always enough of the good stuff--but if everyone pulls together, there will be. 

And it means accepting there are always other decisions you could have made, and hoping doing things with a clear conscience and a good heart gets you as far as you've always believed. 

If we lose the house this time, we have Mate's mother's house to move into. We would rather have Mate's mother around and move into an apartment because we've learned what's important. It's part of that grownup thing. 

Patience, faith, recognizing that everyone has limits and respecting them. Helping when you can, even if it's a small act of kindness. Not making matters worse by being obnoxious or intrusive or whining. My kids are amazing at it. I am proud of them every day.

 They'll never know what a rare and awesome gift it is, to make the thin times feel like plenty, just by giving  joy. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Yes, Mistress...

First of all, I'd like to thank everybody who's taken the time to review Clay and Dane's story in all the usual outlets--remember, creating buzz and reviewing a book are great ways of supporting your favorite authors.

Second of all, I'd like to have a word about Steve.

You may see her, pictured here, lounging among the yarn boxes.

See how content she looks?

Do not be fooled.

That blanket she's on used to belong to Squish. I reorganized my yarn and ZoomBoy put it on top of the boxes as a decorative thing and Steve... made it hers.


As in, last night, it had slid to the floor, and instead of sleeping on that big glorious patch of open box, she slept ON THE YARN I WAS KNITTING FROM until we fixed her spot back.

Steve is very big on psychological warfare.

If the bathroom door is locked while I'm using it, she scratches at it until I open it. If I leave it partially closed, she bursts through it like the Kool-Aid man--like, rears up on her back paws, gets some momentum with her upper body, and CRASHES the door.

She's been known to take a running jump onto the bed to face bump me into petting her.

She's been known to head-bump my boobs repeatedly at three in the morning, because, you know, attention.

If she's sleeping on the cat bed (notice, there ARE cat beds in the house that do not involve yarn, projects we are working on, other people's blankets, or the back of the couch) that sits in front of the pet door, the dogs will look at her and whine until somebody gets her out of the way. They just don't trust her to let them out unmolested.

She is unbullyable when still--however, she does not run that fast, so the dogs CAN bully her if the catch her moving. To counteract this, she stays still as often as possible.

When I catch her sleeping on my office chair, it is usually in full protester position-- she is spread out, all four sets of claws dug in, and as I'm airlifting her out, she's meowing, "You'll never take me alive, coppers, you'll never take me alive!"

I usually turn and dump her on top of the couch, and she's started settling down immediately, as though this were her plan all along, but she needed the airlift to make it happen.

If we run low on food, she will reach out a casual paw and delicately claw your leg until you get your lazy ass up and get her some.

When she's on an affection high, she stretches her paws out in front of her while I scratch her ruff. I think she really believes she can fly.

When I used to take walks at night (when I moved faster and with more confidence and was not quite as terrified of my neighborhood) she would follow me for a two block radius, keeping to the shadows by the houses while I used the sidewalk. I don't think she quite trusted the dogs.

She bets for attention no less than twice a day. I think she feels under appreciated.

I have had some memorable cats in my time, but Steve is perhaps the smartest I've ever loved.

I think she feels as though I am her favorite human. We got her in 2010 I think?

Steve and the dogs are three of the favorite things I've done this decade.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Happy Release Day to Me--Fall through Spring

Fall Through Spring

by Amy Lane

A Winter Ball Novel
As far as Clay Carpenter is concerned, his abusive relationship with food is the best thing he’s got going. When a good friend starts kicking his ass into gear, Clay is forced to reexamine everything he learned about food and love—and that’s right when he meets troubled graduate student, Dane Hayes.

Dane Hayes doesn’t do the whole monogamy thing, but the minute he meets Clay Carpenter, he’s doing the friend thing in spades. The snarky, scruffy bastard not only gets Dane's wacky sense of humor, he also accepts the things Dane can’t control—like the bipolar disorder Dane has been trying to manage for the past six years.

Dane is hoping for more than friendship, and Clay is looking at him with longing that isn't platonic. They’re both positive they’re bad at relationships, but with the help of forbidden desserts and new medication regimens, they prove outstanding at being with each other. But can they turn their friendship into the love neither of them has dared to hope for?

Buy Here

Talking about weight and mental health are two things nobody likes to do. My husband hasn't known how much I've weighed for years, and there are things I may never tell my kids about growing up surrounded by mental illness.

These things are raw and personal and hard--and as much as I think they need to be spoken about, writing about them is difficult.

Which is why fiction is such a glorious way to deal.

Clay has both the successful relationship and the victory over his weight.  Dane has a support system, and by the end of the book, he's got some hope of independence--and he has Clay.

The conflicts in this book aren't external--not a whole lot of family drama, no bad guys, no, "Are they going to break up."  Part of that was that the timeline of this book was established in Summer Lessons, and unless I was going to drop a squid on their heads in October, there was really not much I could do.

But that made it absolutely necessary that all of the conflict be internal--and that made me really explore these guys.

Clay's weight problems are something I'm intimately acquainted with, like an old enemy, and I've seen the fallout of mental health difficulties like Dane's and it's not pretty. We don't need squids from the sky, bad bosses, dead horses or porn to make their struggles to overcome their inner demons poignantly real.

In an era where representation is so important, and the media is working hard to improve the view of our narrative, giving everybody a chance to see a hero and say, "It me!" the overweight and the mentally ill are still underserved. I wanted to write a story where people who aren't toned and beautiful could say, "Oh, look--it's me." I wanted to write a story in which someone with a wicked sense of humor and a treacherous brain chemistry could say, "Look--I can be happy."

I figured those struggles didn't need a bad guy or squids or dead horses or porn. They just needed two guys, working shit out, doing the best they can.

That's sort of been the focus of the entire Rec League Soccer series, actually. Skip and Richie are only mini-gods on the soccer field--but them, working shit out captured our attention. Mason and Terry were two very different guys--and the only person who didn't see Mason's flaws was Terry and vice versa. They were uniquely suited for each other, no falling squids necessary.

And Clay and Dane are hopefully--and painfully--real to us. These are guys we could know. They are not perfect--not inside, not out. (Dane, for instance, is a terrible snob. Clay has troubles standing up for himself in the worst way.) But for all their flaws, they still--like all of us--deserve a chance at happy.

Fall Through Spring is about falling through a hole in life we didn't mean to dig for ourselves--and coming out to the beauty on the other side.

I hope you love it.

Monday, December 2, 2019

And a Happy Kermit Flail to You!!!!


Well, the holiday season is officially upon us-- a little quickly, actually, because Thanksgiving was a wee bit late, right? Anyway-- we have now entered the season of madness, and what better way to hide away from it all than with a some new stories--some for the holidays, and some, just because!

For Christmas stories, E.J. Russell, Tara Lain and R.L. Merrill-- writers of the sweetest, most adorable stories during the rest of the year who will make your heart happy during the holiday season. For regular stories, you have the inimitable Kaje Harper, who writes splendid angst--and this time, it's a throuple, and an angsty one with a murder mystery-- how delicious in so many ways!  And from me, on December 3rd, you have the conclusion to the Rec League Soccer series that started with  Winter Ball. Fall Through Spring-- Clay and Dane's story--is coming, and it's a doozy.

So no matter what your passion, we've got your flavor-- come join us for a Christmas Flail!


A Swants Soiree

By E.J. Russell

Introverted software engineer Brent Levine struggles with the life part of work-life balance, but to hold on to his new job, he’ll have to embrace his employer’s dreaded “staff enrichment” events. This year’s annual ugly holiday sweater party will strain his ambition to remain inconspicuous: everyone has to wear sweaters converted into pants—aka “swants.”

Brent’s an ace at coding, but when it comes to handcrafts, he’s definitely at the far left end of the bell curve. Luckily he encounters seriously cute theater costumer Jonathan at the Goodwill Outlet. Jonathan offers Brent both an acceptably ugly sweater and his expertise in swants conversion. Attraction sparks on Brent’s side, but can Jonathan be interested in a guy like him?

Buy Here

Changes Coming Down - Changes Book 1

by Kaje Harper

For three gay men in love, opening the closet door could be a risky move.

Sheriff Casey Barlow has a slick, media-savvy challenger out to beat him in the upcoming election. Casey's damned good at his job, but he hasn't kissed the right asses, and early polls suggest voters like his opponent's style. Coming out now, let alone revealing his relationship with two men, could sink any hope of keeping his badge.

Scott Edison has a real shot at the NHL. He's playing the best hockey of his life. Whenever he can, he travels home to his gruff sheriff and their laid-back cowboy, but there are no out gay players in the NHL. As a rookie working his ass off to be called up, he can't afford to make waves.

Will Rice always figured he'd live alone, managing Graham and Annmarie Slater's cattle ranch, but a hot, young hockey player and a compact, muscled lawman rearranged his plans. Even though he's older and lanky and ordinary, he's been sharing their lives and their beds. He doesn't need to be out— isn't sure he ever wants the Slaters to know about him. Life's good the way things are.

Then Graham and Annmarie are killed in a hit and run that may not be an accident. As Will grieves, and Casey investigates, the coming changes will shake all their lives.

** this is a re-edit and expansion of the story in the "Hunting Under Covers" anthology

The Fairy Shop

by Tara Lane

When Nate Hawthorne meets Asher Dane, the huge, tattooed hunk is the personification of Nate’s dreams. But Nate knows there’s no future, because Asher is also the personification of his beloved five-year-old daughter Delly’s nightmares. She’s frightened of big men. Things turn around for both of them, however, when Delly goes Christmas shopping at the Fairy Shop and begins her quest for a wand that will make her brave. Neither of them guesses that the Fairy Shop will be the source of far more than Delly’s courage. On Christmas Eve, under the influence of a very unusual fairy, Nate’s life will change forever.

Peace Offering

by R.L. Merrill

Dover Billings has sold his handcrafted wares at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco for over twenty years. He's not as outgoing as the other artisans at this yearly Victorian celebration and prefers to observe the festivities from the shadows. That is until a new corset maker moves into the booth next door and unsettles his carefully constructed life. Landry Malcolm is handsome, well dressed, and the life of the party… one Dover wants no part of. Too bad he's attracted to his confident younger rival. Landry desperately wishes to get through to the beautiful artist next door, but every move he makes seems to be the wrong one, until a drunken kiss breaks through Dover's serious demeanor. Miscommunications plague any attempts to find common ground, though, leaving Landry wondering what—if anything—he can do to make things right. Will a custom-made peace offering open the door to friendship, cooperation… and maybe more? A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2019 Advent Calendar "Homemade for the Holidays."

Fall Through Spring

by Amy Lane

A Winter Ball Novel

As far as Clay Carpenter is concerned, his abusive relationship with food is the best thing he’s got going. When a good friend starts kicking his ass into gear, Clay is forced to reexamine everything he learned about food and love—and that’s right when he meets troubled graduate student, Dane Hayes.

Dane Hayes doesn’t do the whole monogamy thing, but the minute he meets Clay Carpenter, he’s doing the friend thing in spades. The snarky, scruffy bastard not only gets Dane's wacky sense of humor, he also accepts the things Dane can’t control—like the bipolar disorder Dane has been trying to manage for the past six years.

Dane is hoping for more than friendship, and Clay is looking at him with longing that isn't platonic. They’re both positive they’re bad at relationships, but with the help of forbidden desserts and new medication regimens, they prove outstanding at being with each other. But can they turn their friendship into the love neither of them has dared to hope for?

Bunnies-- a Story of Granby

So, a number of people begged so sweetly, I had to do this one. For those of you who haven't read the Granby stories, they're also known as my "knitting books", and the stories revolve around a small alpaca/sheep farm and fiber mill, based off a real one in Granby, Colorado.

Jeremy and Aiden from How to Raise an Honest Rabbit and Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair were possibly everybody's favorite couple from that series--and people want to check in on Jeremy every now and then, just to make sure he's okay.

He is. Really really. Come see.

* * *

"And here's her pull-ups, and here's her little potty, and here's her best blanket. Her clothes are in the bag with the pull-ups and--"

"Ari, honey," Rory said gently, "it's time to go."

Ariadne's eyes filled with tears. "But we're going to be gone for five days," she said, lower lip wobbly. "I hate to leave her--"

"We'll take care of her, Miss Ariadne," Jeremy reassured. He tried to keep his voice even and happy and upbeat, even though his heart was beating super fast like a terrified bird.

"We'll be fine," Aiden said, sounding much more confident. "Ari, go. Rory's going to crap his pants, and you have to get over the mountain and through Denver traffic. We'll be fine. See you in five days. Remember, we've got Craw and Ben, and Ben seems mostly civilized. If all else fails, we've got my mom, and she hasn't lost a kid yet."

Ariadne gave him a flat-eyed stare, and her sharp featured face made that "mom" look a thing of deadly beauty. "You are not funny, Aiden Rhodes," she said.

"I am a goddamned delight," Aiden replied, deadpan. "And you be nice to me, or I'm going to leave your adorable daughter out with the rabbits at night."

"He will not!" Jeremy's voice cracked in panic and he shielded Persephone from the idea even in jest. He was pretty sure it was in jest. Jeremy's boy had a streak of hard in him, but mean and cruel were not in his makeup.

"Oh, I know he won't," Ariadne snapped. "He's just trying to piss me off so I'll leave."

"Is it working?" Ari's giant blond husband asked plaintively. "We don't have so many chances to go on vacation, Ari!"

And that seemed to work. Rory had been making good commissions lately-- tourists were coming to Granby to buy his paintings, and, oddly enough, Craw's yarn. It had been Craw who'd told Ariadne she was bitchy as hell and needed five days with just her husband to chill her out, and he hadn't been far wrong--Ariadne was worried.

Persephone had been born with a cleft palate, and that was a lot of operations between birth and three-and-a-half years old. Her little ears had tubes in them, and the tubes had gotten infected more times than anybody could count. Jeremy and Aiden, Craw and Ben--even Johnny and Stanley in Boulder--all knew the drill. Warm oil, compresses, and only call the doctor when her fever spiked over 100. Hurting ears were rough on a toddler, and hence rough on everybody around the toddler, and Ariadne and Rory were ragged. The little girl had another surgery in a month, and if Ariadne wanted to keep her sanity for another trip to the hospital with her little one, she needed a break now.

But of course Jeremy and Aiden were happy to do it.

Aiden had been raised around children--he was a natural at them-- but Persephone was Jeremy's only experience with a small person who kept growing, and Persy was his world.

The two of them had watched the little girl a lot in the past three-and-a-half years, from days when Ariadne was in the yarn shop doing books and Jeremy took her to feed stock with him, or the occasional evening when Ariadne and Rory had a rare date. She'd stayed in their guest bedroom before in her little porta-crib, and they had a routine with her.

"Okay," Ariadne said finally. "Bye baby--you be good."

"Bye, mama," Persephone said tranquilly from Jeremy's arms. "Thee you wader!"

Her lisp would be worked with after her final surgery--but Jeremy could see how now, the imperfect words were probably ripping Ariadne's heart right out of her chest.

"Bye sweetheart," Rory said, dropping a kiss on his daughter's forehead. "Guys, call us if you need anything." He said the words out loud, but they both saw him shake his head forebodingly, and they got it. If Ariadne didn't have a little bit of space, she was going to crack--this trip was for everybody.

Finally they were gone, their little Hyundai jouncing down the road, and Persephone struggled in Jeremy's arms.

"Bunnies!" she pleaded, and he set her down and let her go. Aiden had put in paving stones in the beginning of spring, leading from the driveway to the entrance of the house, and from the house to the back, where the critter cages were. Jeremy and Aiden kept an increasing number of rabbits and chinchillas bred for their fur, and feeding, watering, and brushing the gentle creatures took Jeremy about an hour a day. On this day, he was going to get some help.

He sang softly as he brushed out his second favorite critter--a chinchilla that Stanley and Johnny had bought him three-and-a-half years ago, when Jeremy had still been in the hospital from saving Stanley's life. Ariadne had been there too, on bedrest, and the hospital had let them room together, because Jeremy had been a mess and they'd both been lonely. Persephone stood on tiptoe and studied one of the older bunnies through his enclosure. This one was sort of a badass bunny, but he regarded her curiously, munching through a carrot Jeremy had given him as a bribe to be nice.

"Jemy?" Persephone turned to him and put her finger delicately on her upper lip. "Wook." She wrinkled her lips and her nose, and Jeremy smiled as he realized she was doing a bunny wiggle.

"Yeah, princess--is that what bunnies do?"

"Am I a bunny?"

Jeremy frowned. "No, you're an angel."

She tapped her scarred upper lip again, and Jeremy had an epiphany. A cleft palate used to be called a "hare lip" for just that reason. Because it split the upper lip like... well, a bunny.

"Yeah, princess. You've got that split in your lip for now. It'll get closed up as you get older."

She looked sad then, and Jeremy put the chinchilla back in its cage before picking her up.

"What's wrong, princess?"

"Wan look like bunny!" she protested, and Jeremy laughed softly.

"Well, you will look like Persephone even after it gets fi... uh, changed," he said. "It will help you talk, and you'll still have a little scar there, so you can remember when you were a bunny."

She brightened, and brushed Jeremy's face gently with her fingertips. "Thcarth?"

It took Jeremy a minute, and then he remembered--he had scars too. "Yeah, but your scars will make you pretty," he said. His scars sort of made him the opposite of that. The beating he'd taken keeping Stanley's whereabouts from a rabid mobster had taken away the con-man's prettiness he'd relied on his entire life. He'd been devastated at first, but Aiden kept looking at him like he was pretty, and he'd just... forgotten, over the last few years. Sometimes he mourned his perfect nose and the dimples in smooth cheeks, but most days, he worked too hard by Aiden's side to think too much on what he'd lost.

He had his boy, he had his family with Ari and Craw and Ben--and even Johnny and Stanley. He had his bunnies and his chinchillas, and the sheep and alpacas at Craw's farm.

He had his work and his dog, Bluebell. And he had Persephone, who made his days brighter with just a smile.

"Your thcarth make oo pretty," she said carefully, and Jeremy grinned at her.

"You think so? I'll have to tell Aiden that."

She gave an exaggerated scowl then. "Aithen wook wike mean!"

Jeremy laughed. "That's just for show. He's got a heart softer than bunny fur. You know that!"

That night, Jeremy cooked chicken pot pies for them, a new recipe that Aiden liked and that Persephone could eat easily, because chewing was difficult sometimes. They sang songs and then sat in the quiet while she played with the toys her mother had brought, and finally, she fell asleep on Aiden's lap as he read to her from a magazine about tending stock.

"That about put me to sleep too," Jeremy admitted softly after Aiden laid her down.

"Well, next time we'll try one of those action books of yours," Aiden muttered. "Bluebell, down."

Bluebell, their Volkswagen sized dog, knew exactly what that meant as they entered their room--and so did Jeremy.

"Bluebell down?" Jeremy said, and Bluebell--who was stretched across the felted rug Ariadne had given them for Aiden's birthday two years before--gave him a puzzled look. She was down, right?

"Yes, Jeremy. You heard what I said." Aiden was stripping off his clothes and heading for the shower, and he looked behind him impatiently. "Coming?"

Jeremy stripped off his clothes too, feeling a little naughty. They usually didn't do things like shower together when Persephone was staying with them. "I... I uh... you know."

Aiden caught his hand as he came into the bathroom to put his clothes in the hamper. "I did not agree to go without sex for a week, Jeremy. You need to put that out of your head."

Jeremy felt his smile blossom from somewhere around his toes. In the past three-and-a-half years, his body had gotten stronger. He'd still have frailties--his arm had been badly broken, and his hip would always pain him in the cold. But he'd been active and happy most every day.

He wasn't embarrassed to be naked in front of Aiden anymore. Aiden hadn't let him be.

The shower was short, but Aiden was ruthless about letting Jeremy know what would be expected of him when they got out.  By the time Aiden backed him up to the bed and possessed Jeremy's body expertly, with the ease of a lot of practice, Jeremy would have died if he'd been denied any of those expectations.

Their sex was hard and fast--and quiet, because neither of them were in the mood to put clothes on and run into the other room to quiet down their houseguest.  Jeremy's climax same so quick, so gracefully, he tilted his head back with a little cry, and was transported to the clouds while his body did all the heavy lifting downstairs.

Aiden's climax was a little harder, and as he thrust in a final time, he took Jeremy's mouth, his groan reverberating down in Jeremy's toes. He collapsed on top of Jeremy, and Jeremy smiled dreamily as the kiss faded. Aiden rolled to the side and covered them both with the blanket because even in the summer, Granby got a little chilly after dark.

"God," Aiden said, rubbing his fingertips along Jeremy's lips. "You are so pretty."

Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Am not."

"Don't be an ass, Jeremy. You are too."

And Jeremy felt the wounding to his heart. "You know very well I haven't been pretty since... since you know. Since my face got busted up."

Aiden sat up in bed and scowled. "I know that's bullshit, and I didn't know you still thought that."

Jeremy swallowed, hard, rolling to his side. "Look, just drop it, okay?"


Jeremy scowled at him. "What are you going to do? Compliment me to death?"

"No--I just want you to admit you're still a fine looking man, Jeremy No-Last-Name."

Jeremy raised a corner of his mouth, a long buried hurt surfacing. Aiden had brought it up three years ago--but their lives had been so busy then. They'd been good lives--better than Jeremy had ever imagined having--but they'd been busy, and it had been forgotten between them.

"I must not be that good looking," Jeremy retorted, "Or I'd have a last name, wouldn't I?"

Aiden sucked in a breath, and let it out on an "Aha..."

"What?" Jeremy didn't look at him.

"God, I'm dumb."

"You are not." Jeremy hated it when Aiden said things like that. Aiden was perfect--Jeremy knew it in his bones.

"I must be if I haven't married you yet."

Jeremy peeked at him. "You did say something about it once," he mumbled, remembering that night before the benefit they'd thrown to help Ariadne and Rory with Persephone's medical expenses. It had been a beautiful, fairy-tale sunset, and Aiden had put it out there, and Jeremy had hoped.

"Can I help it if I'm so happy I feel married already?" Aiden asked mildly, kissing his shoulder. "Would you let me call you pretty if you wore my ring and had my last name?"

"It would be a lie," Jeremy said sullenly.

"It would not." Aiden tugged gently on his shoulder until Jeremy sighed and turned around and into him. "I would be proud to have such a man with my name."

Jeremy couldn't help it. He smiled into Aiden's chest. "Persephone said my scars were pretty," he said, remembering the stupid pride he'd felt at that.

"That's because she loves you best," Aiden told him, his big hand stroking Jeremy's hair.  "But not more than I do, Jeremy. Marry me. Then you'll know I think you're the prettiest one."

Jeremy kissed him. "Sure. And everyone will know I'm your man."

And Aiden's clear-eyed expression lapsed into his habitual scowl. "And you can finally stop calling me boy."

Jeremy grinned. "Nope. Not even when we're a hundred."

Aiden's throaty laughter rang in his ears.

The next morning, when Ariadne called, sounding sleepy and happy and so much more relaxed, Jeremy told her he and Aiden were getting married sometime in the fall.

"It's about fucking time," she murmured. "Now tell me what Craw says after you go to the store."

Craw said exactly the same thing. It was like they were best friends or something. It was Ben who called Stanley and started the planning.

And Aiden who shopped for the rings.

Jeremy was too busy chasing his princess around the store and the stables, keeping her out of trouble. He told her that was the price you paid when you were beautiful--other people just fell over themselves trying to be nice to you.

She giggled like understood the joke, and he giggled because he knew it was one.

He was pretty sure that other people fell over themselves trying to be nice to Jeremy for the same reason Jeremy's entire life stopped so he could take care of his princes angel bunny. Of all the changes in his life since he'd first come to Granby, the biggest, most important one of all was that he knew for a fact that he was very very well loved.