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November 3, 2023
I’ve been in love with my best friend for years.
He thinks I’m straight.
And now that I share a dorm with him, his insistent need to cuddle -and lack of clothes- are blurring the careful lines I’ve drawn.
I'm struggling to keep my defenses up.
I love him but I’m afraid.
Afraid I’m not enough to make him stay.
Afraid he’ll rip my heart out.
Afraid he won’t love me back.
But I see a side of him no one else does.
In the security of our room, he lets his mask fall.
Lets me hold him.
Something lurks in the dark recesses of his mind that keeps him from going all in.
He’s just as hesitant about this as I am, but I don’t understand why.
Can I convince him to let me love him the way he deserves…
or will he take my heart and run away with it?
Never Been the Same
by Aria Brennan
For three long years, there's been only one name on my mind. The name that echoes in my thoughts, the only name that matters – Ty Kinsley. International surfing star, youngest guy on the world pro surf tour and, quite literally, the hottest human on the entire planet. Oh, did I mention he’s also my best friend’s baby brother?
Me? I’m just the guy who makes Ty Kinsley’s surfboards. The guy the Kinsley brothers left behind.
I haven’t seen either brother in over three years. Not since that night. The night Ty and I crashed over the lines between friendship and something else entirely. Which is strange because I’m supposed to be straight-ish. Right?
And now, an untimely injury is bringing them back home, right to the house next door and I don’t know how I feel.
There is only one thing I know with absolutely certainty. After that kiss with the most beautiful boy in the entire universe – I have never been the same.
by K.M. Neuhold
The only thing bigger than Riggs’ attitude is his tool… And only one of those problems can be solved with more lube…
There's no tragic backstory or closet stuffed full of skeletons from relationships’ past. I've just never been very good at the “very special episode” sh*t. If you're looking for a shoulder to cry on, may I suggest a therapist?
Casual fun with my emotionally stunted, overgrown frat boy roommate slash co-worker should be perfect, right? Shep seems to be just as allergic to commitment as I am to emotions, but that doesn't mean we don't need our stroker rods serviced, if you catch my drift.
Now if he'll just stop looking at me with those dopey puppy dog eyes while I'm elbow deep in a diesel engine, and making my stomach flip with that smile of his, that would be great…
Call of the Sea
by Chani Lynn Feener
The Devils of Vitality always catch their prey.
Bay Delmar is pretty done with life.
There’s a reason even his friends refer to him as the Undead or Robot. It’s been years since Bay’s been able to feel anything other than emptiness when he isn’t straddling a hoverbike and risking his neck in one of Vitality’s infamous street races. By day, he’s Professor Delmar, the reputable—yet stony—youngest staff member at the prestigious Vail University. But by night, he’s either racing or sneaking off to the Seaside Cinema where he partakes in other…questionable pastimes. The fact that he suffers from emotional detachment, likes fast bikes and violent porn, aren’t even his biggest secret. No, the one thing Bay can never risk the world finding out is that he has an obsession. With a student.
Sila Varun is an apex predator.
Being a genius and all-around perfect specimen sort of ensured from the get-go he would be. He’s lived his life at the top of the food chain, and the best way to get prey to let down their guard? Give them a false sense of security. The mask he wears on a daily basis provides him and his brother with a layer of protection, but boredom is always there, scratching at the back of his psyche. Until he discovers Bay Delmar lurking in the shadows—both literally and figuratively. What was meant to be a quickly handled task soon turns into a fixation. Sila’s never grown attached to anything before, and he has no intention of doing so now, so what harm could playing a long game bring?
Bay is shocked, and admittedly a little thrilled when the person he’s been secretly yearning for suddenly shows an interest in him, only it’s clear from the start that Sila isn’t the kindhearted boy next door type he’s led the planet to believe. His psychopathic nature is revealed the very first night the two of them share together, and the worst possible thing that could happen does. Bay realizes that only makes him like the younger man more. Since his emotions went dormant, he needs constant stimulation—of both the pain and pleasure sort—in order to feel anything, and Sila’s vicious nature easily calls to the soul Bay thought was gone forever. This psychopath may be the only thing that can breathe life back into him. But how can he convince Sila he’s worth more alive to him than dead?
Sila’s always in control, always in charge. He plays everyone like pieces in a game of chess. So why does he feel like he’s stumbled onto someone else’s board? And why is he suddenly wondering if the Devil kills the King after all, or if perhaps he lays claim to him instead?
Fated Mates and Where to Find Them
by AJ Sherwood
Zander is in an auction house for the sole purpose of getting someone to sign a contract. He doesn’t have any interest in owning a blood slave—until he lays eyes on Max. That, he must have.
Max is there for reasons of his own, mostly desperate reasons, and he’s braced himself for a year of hell. Which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.
Someone needs to explain to this vampire that he’s supposed to use Max, not spoil him. Zander doesn’t seem to get it.
The Endless Sea Between Us
by Lucy Mason
Five years ago, Faeryn Moss lost her family and home to a plague that swept her village. As the sole survivor, she was rumored to be a witch—a rumor she never denied because it was the truth. Ostracized and cast out in fear, she now lives a quiet life in a cave on the beach, alone with her magic and the only thing that never let her down, the only thing she loves: the sea. But when she sings up a storm borne from her grief in order to collect a net full of the sea’s treasure, she gets more than she bargained for. There’s a mermaid tangled within it.
Zale, washed into the net by the storm, is full of questions about humanity. Banished from her society for rescuing a drowning human, all she wants is a chance on land to start over. Seeing an opportunity for both of them to get what they want, Faeryn creates a transmutation rune—but as they go from reluctant allies to something else and Zale thaws Faeryn’s frosty heart, they struggle with what’s more important…their chance at a new beginning or their budding romance.
Everything changes when the kingdom’s witch-hunting prince decides to take Zale as a member of the royal court and the potential future queen against her will. Faeryn must follow her across the sea so their transmutation rune can be completed by the next full moon or risk losing her love and her life to the very magic she cherishes.
by Ashlyn Drewek
Hiding the truth is never easy, but it’s something Jamie Kincaid has gotten pretty good at over the years—just like ignoring the fact he’s in love with his best friend. And after pretending for so long, there’s no way he’s going to risk what they have by fessing up about his true feelings.
Not to mention that other secret he’s been concealing since they were thirteen; a secret Jamie swears he’ll take to his grave.
But it turns out, his best friend has secrets too. Deadly secrets, which means Jamie might end up keeping his vow after all.
Bully in a Chair
by Blossom M. Mason
Ramon Delgado has made something of himself and he can’t wait to show off at his ten year high school reunion. He is especially eager to rub it in his bully’s face.
But Ramon soon discovers life has changed a lot for Josh too. He’s stunned to see that his high school bully is now a paraplegic in a wheelchair.
There’s still tension between them but maybe all these years it’s always been about something else. Ramon is about to find out what’s really going on between them.
Christmas for Keeps
by Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood
I was supposed to be on a winter vacation with my best friend in the delightfully snowy town of Stowe, Vermont.
I was supposed to be sipping hot chocolate, staying up late, and sharing secrets.
I was supposed to be making a fool of myself on the bunny slope and sneaking glances at hot guys.
I was not supposed to be sitting in the SUV I’d just rear-ended.
I was not supposed to lose my hotel reservations because said rear-ending made me miss check-in.
And I most definitely should not be sharing the cabin of the hottest man I’d ever touched.
Oh, did I mention the SUV and cabin belong To. My. Ex?
Can you call someone an ex if you never actually broke up?
God, he looks good. The last four years have definitely been kind to him. So, would it be so bad if we shared a kiss—only one—for old times' sake?
But… What if we could make it work? What if how easy it has been to slip back into an “us” means there’s still hope?
What if this vacation isn’t just a getaway but a journey back home—for keeps this time?
by TL Travis
Lynden Alan Ackerman the third, aka, Seltzer – don’t ask how he got the nickname, his younger sister is still traumatized over the whole incident. Seltzer, the lead guitarist for the band Embrace the Fear was caught in a compromising position with the younger brother of the not so happy drummer from the mega band, Social Sinners, Diamond.
“Don’t poke the bear,” Stoli, lead guitarist for Social Sinners and Seltzer’s mentor warns while moving Seltzer out of Diamond’s reach. But being the jokester was Seltzer’s MO, though Diamond’s growls and clenched fists should’ve been a sign to back off.
Jeremiah Taylor grips his brother’s bicep while he and Diamond’s husband Easton do their best to calm the beast. Was the hook up with Seltzer worth it? Yes, and no.
Though this wasn’t their first time…
The Wicked Side
by Ash Coley
He's my best friend's little brother...
I protected him for years - kept him safe from his parents and took care of him when his older brother couldn't.
I'll do anything in the world for him just to make him happy.
But I keep my distance, too, because being in love with my best friend's little brother is scary enough. Knowing he's straight just makes the pain worse.
Then, Solomon comes out to us. He announces he's gay. On top of that, he announces that he's going on to a party with a guy we don't know, that we haven't vetted. We only have Solomon's word that he can be trusted. Letting him go without protection makes my skin crawl and itch.
Which is how I end up at a college frat party and how I end up interrupting Solomon and his date in one of the rooms.
That night changes everything for us in both the best and absolute worst ways.
Because my reckless decision that night brings horror to my boy's life, and I'm not sure if I'm going to be enough to protect him.
Mask of Sin
by Michaela Cole
Halloween is supposed to be a time of celebration and delight, tricks and sweet treats.
If you're a college student like me, that includes hitting up the legendary costume party my best friend, Blaine, throws every year at his family's mansion.
And my senior year is shaping up to be the best year of all because I've finally caught the attention of my hot roommate and crush, Kellen Williams. He is everything I desire, and all I need is for this night with him to go perfectly.
I guess that makes me naive.
After all, according to some ancient traditions, Halloween is a time when the line between the living and the dead becomes thin. Where spirits and sinners are free to walk the earth, wreaking havoc and seeking vengeance, and dressing in masks will shield you from their evil.
Too bad I never liked masks, and no costume can protect me from the supposed sins of my past or the evil of those who have set out to enact revenge against me.
Mask of Sin was previously published in Phobia: A Dark Romance Anthology. It is a short story of approximately 36,000 words and, other than a few very minor extra details or word changes here and there, this version is the same as what was available in the anthology.
Mask of Sin is a dark romance story and contains content that some readers may be uncomfortable with. A list of triggers is available in the front of the book as well as on my website.
by L.A. Witt
Isaiah Cole escapes his everyday life as a schoolteacher by debating—and trash talking—online under a fake name. For the past four years, his internet persona has been getting closer and closer to another user.
hey’re friends, and there’s even a little flirtation now and then… but the guy doesn’t know Isaiah’s real name, and they’ve never seen each other’s faces.
Of all the men who could be behind his friend’s avatar, Isaiah is stunned to learn he’s been chatting with Tanner Jeffries, a jaw-droppingly gorgeous forward from his favorite hockey team.
As soon as they’re face-to-face, the chemistry is off the charts. They’re as inseparable in person as they are online, and their only regret is not doing this sooner.
But eventually, the novelty is going to wear off. And when it does…
How much can a broke, overweight average Joe actually offer a hot, rich, younger athlete?
Dark Moon Shallow Sea
by David R. Slayton
When Phoebe, goddess of the moon, is killed by the knights of the sun god, Hyperion, all who follow her are branded heretics. With Phoebe gone, the souls of the dead are no longer ferried to the underworld, and instead linger on as shades who feast on the blood of the living.
Raef is a child of the night. He lives in the shadows, on scraps, eking out a meager existence as a thief. But when an ornate box is sequestered in the Temple of Hyperion, the chance of a big score proves too great to resist. What he finds within propels him on an odyssey across the sea and back again, altering the course of his life forever.
Seth is a knight of the sun. But unlike the others of his order, the fire of Hyperion only brings him pain. He believes he deserves this penance, exacted for his unknown origins. Tasked with recovering the contents of the box, Seth must also venture beyond the horizon if he’s to learn the truth about himself.
In a dying world divided by the greed of those in power, Raef and Seth find their destinies intertwined—and learn they might have more in common than they ever imagined.
by Sara Marhan
Jake “Emmy” Walker moved into a middle-of-nowhere school district three years ago not knowing if he’d get to stay long enough to entertain the idea of belonging. Now, he’s walking into his senior year with a record-worthy football career, enough good fortune to last him a lifetime, and the most loyal best friend anyone could ever ask for: fellow football player, sweets-craving, history nerd, general enigma, Julian Ridgemore.
Somewhere between late night whispers and secret pasts, Emmy’s feelings for Julian take a turn towards the unexpected. Perhaps it’s less a surprise than an inevitable outcome. Emmy’s heart is used to calling the shots, and it is rarely ever wrong.
Until, it lands him a prime spot on the school’s gossip page.
After an anonymous submission puts his sexuality at the forefront of school debates, he realizes his newly-discovered crush is the least of his worries. Fighting with the influx of attention, Julian’s uncharacteristic withdraw, and his already-polarized team conspiring against him, Emmy is forced to decide what it means to be "out" when he'd least been expecting it, how far he'll go to keep his best friend, and what his sports career looks like when his team isn't interested in playing nice.
Emmy had always loved the spotlight, but can he keep it from burning him now?
by Lane Hayes
The injured hockey player and the grumpy chef…
My time playing pro hockey will be up soon. I can feel it. And I’ve heard the rumors: he’s too old, he’s had too many injuries, he’s lost his edge. I don’t want to admit it, but they could be right. Next season might be my last.
Or this season. Because of course, this is when the universe decides I need another concussion. It’s a doozy too—the kind that’s going to keep me off skates for a while.
Which is how I end up in a small New England town in the middle of nowhere Vermont, eating every meal at a diner where a grumpy chef from Quebec makes haute cuisine…and burgers. Jean-Claude is funny and charming and—
Okay, I have a crush on a gay man.
This is a new one.
Confused straight men are entertaining. But Riley is…fascinating, sexy, and curiously vulnerable. His injury has rocked his confidence a bit, so perhaps he’s in need of a friend. Any friend. Even moi.
I’m an unlikely choice, but maybe he just likes my tuna salad.
No…I think it’s me.
And though I’m happy to help him explore his bisexual curious side, I have career concerns of my own. See, the things I love most about Elmwood seem shaky and uncertain, but not Riley. He’s solid and genuine. Suddenly, this temporary secret liaison feels more real than anything in my life.
I need more than this season. I want it all. With Riley.
by C.P. Harris
How can I keep avoiding him when he’s constantly texting me and being all cute and shit?
Turns out I can’t.
Turns out I never stood a chance because Mike McKinnley is irresistible, Mike McKinnley is the perfect man, Mike McKinnley is definitely too good for me.
What will happen when he eventually finds out who I am?