Bookversary | Call Me Charles

Call Me Charles

It’s bookversary time!!! Call Me Charles celebrates National Motorcycle Ride Day, which was yesterday, but we were busy celebrating the release of A Vampire Chew Toy then, so we’ll just have to do it today instead.

Yeah, I get it, it’s a lot of partying, and on a Sunday… But Call Me Charles is just a shorty, so I think we’ll manage 😁 

I often forget this story, and I don’t know why. I like Charles and Hubert. But when I think of my stories, I tend to miss this one.

I’ve put Hubert’s house in an area I often walked by when I lived by the coast, and I would look at the tiny houses and sigh dreamily. The ocean is right outside, it’s desolate, the nature formed by the salty winds blowing in.

It’s where I belong. 

I live in the woods now, and I love the trees and the scent of the forest, but there is nothing like standing by the sea on an autumn or winter day. The wind tearing at your hair, the grey waves crashing towards land, the cold. It’s not that I like to freeze, not at all, but that wind tends to go through your bones. It’s looking out and not seeing land. Makes you feel small and there is peace in that. I think we all take ourselves too seriously. In the scheme of things, we’re insignificant, and some people could use the reminder.

But back to Charles and Hubert!

Charles is having a crappy day, and it only gets worse. Luckily, Hubert rides in on his motorcycle and sweeps Charles off his feet. 

Call Me Charles

callmecharlesCharles Bowman was having a bad day even before his friends showed up to kidnap him for his birthday. He lost his nametag, missed the bus, and was late for his shift in the sandwich shop, but that isn’t the worst. The worst is that he’s accidentally been poisoning Hubert, the owner of the candy shop across from the sandwich shop, with gluten despite Hubert ordering gluten-free sandwiches.

When Charles finds himself soaking wet on a deserted road in the chilling October night, the worst gets an entirely new meaning. But right as he’s about to give up, Hubert comes driving on his motorcycle. Being responsible for gluten poisoning aside, Charles has never been as glad to see his knight in black leather, but is going home with Hubert a good idea or will the worst get even worse?

Buy links

Contemporary Gay Romance: 15,071 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/CAllMeCharles

Chapter 1

Charles Bowman zigzagged through dawdling passengers at the train station. The scent of coffee coming from the magazine shop should have been augmented by the scent of coffee coming from his tiny sandwich shop twenty feet down the aisle, but he wasn’t there. He was here, trying not to push an ancient woman out of the way to get to where he should have been forty minutes ago.

As he made it past her, he spotted Hubert Kane—the large, bearded, heavily tattooed owner of the candy shop across from the sandwich shop. He was trying to see in through the sliding window Charles should have opened thirty minutes ago.

He would lose his job over this.

Whatever he told Lucile, his boss, she would assume he was lying and had overslept, and she had told him when she hired him that if he overslept, he was out. There was far too many looking for a job for her to keep someone who didn’t do theirs. And Charles understood, but he hadn’t overslept.

First, it had been Mrs. Oliver who had locked herself out of her apartment. She’d come to him, panicking since her grandchild was sleeping inside all alone. Charles understood and had done his best to help. He’d called the caretaker who hadn’t picked up. Since Mrs. Oliver’s panic had grown with each passing second, he’d called a locksmith.

Then he’d missed the bus and had to run here in the chilly October rain. Now his clothes were damp from both the inside and the outside. He was panting, sticky, and tasted blood at the back of his mouth.

“Charlie.” Hubert looked relieved to see him.

“Charles.” He pointed at his name tag only to realize it was no longer where it should have been. Crap!

“I was worried you’d gotten sick.”

Charles frowned. He hadn’t known Hubert could worry. Every morning he bought a sandwich from Charles—chicken and avocado. Then he’d grunt, sometimes growl, depending on the people in the waiting hall, and go back into the candy shop.

The candy shop was as tiny as the sandwich shop and the magazine shop—the magazine shop claimed to be a magazine shop, but they only had one wall covered with magazines. The rest was candy, drinks, and one narrow shelf with travel games. And worst of all, they were snobby bastards. If Charles needed help, he’d risk getting growled at by Hubert rather than expose himself to the condescending looks of the magazine people.

A voice came through the speakers, announcing the train on platform twelve arriving shortly, and people bustled toward the exit.

“Charlie?”

Charles looked at Hubert. “Yeah?”

“Are you okay?”

He shook his head. “Yes.”

Hubert watched him without much expression. “Are you gonna open the shop?”

“Oh, yeah.”

He fumbled with his keys, let himself inside at the back, and opened the sliding window. “Yes? How can I help you?”

Hubert frowned. “I can come back later. You have things you need to prepare, right?”

Charles looked around the empty counters. He didn’t have bread. If he followed the aisle of the waiting hall for ages, passed all the train platforms and went into a bus station, there was a tiny bakery where he got his bread every morning.

They would have called Lucile by now.

Charles gave Hubert a pleading look. “I have to get bread.”

Hubert nodded, his normally harsh eyes softening. “You do that. Lock up. I’ll keep an eye from the shop.”

Nodding, Charles closed the window again. His eyes stung, but he refused to cry before he’d opened for the day.

When Charles exited the sandwich shop, Hubert was growling at a kid who rode a skateboard through the waiting hall. The kid was either stupid or… stupid. When Charles had been fifteen, he would have peed his pants had someone like Hubert growled at him. To be honest, he might pee his pants at thirty-one too.

 * * * *

 Charles greeted one customer after the other. It was evident they were nearing lunch. He’d finally gotten all the things out of the refrigerator, had managed to slice vegetables and get the bread he needed after many and long apologies to Joan at the bakery. She would have given him the bread without any apology at all, but he couldn’t stand the thought of not only having messed up his day but theirs too.

Hubert hadn’t been back. He worked alone for all Charles knew, and there was always someone strolling around in the candy shop.

When a preppy-looking man snarled an order of a chicken avocado sandwich while staring at his phone, Charles made two. He feared Hubert would be hungry.

When there finally was a lull in customers, he wrapped the sandwich and headed out the back door. He hurried the few steps over the aisle and crossed the threshold to Hubert’s shop. He’d never been in. He liked candy, but Hubert made him nervous.

There wasn’t much room, and Charles feared he’d knock something over. How did Hubert walk around in here? He was far broader than Charles.

“Hi.” He gave Hubert a quick smile.

“Charlie.” The grin had heat spreading in Charles’s body—not good. Lusting for the tattooed candy man across the hall? Not smart.

“Charles.”

Hubert only grinned, which had Charles shifting his weight and almost knocking over a shelf. He reached out to steady it, taking in the gums and… condoms. A flush crept up his cheeks. “Erm… your sandwich.”

“Did I order one?” There was a teasing glimmer in Hubert’s eyes, and Charles straightened his jacket with the hand he wasn’t holding the sandwich in.

“I feared you’d be hungry by now.” It took several seconds before he dared look at Hubert again, and when he did, he almost wished he hadn’t. He’d hoped for appreciation or joy, but Hubert was studying him with a frown.

“That’s kind of you.”

“Not really, you did try to order earlier, but I messed up.”

“Everyone messes up now and then, Charlie. Don’t beat yourself up.”

Charles swallowed around the lump forming in his throat. “Lucile will fire me.”

“Ah…” Hubert grimaced. “That’s one plus of having your own business, hard to get fired.”

Charles nodded and placed the sandwich on the counter. “I have to get back.” His eyes fell on the trashcan next to Hubert. There was bread in it—his bread. The chicken, avocado, lettuce, and onions were gone, but Charles could’ve sworn it was the bread from the sandwich shop. “You don’t like my sandwiches?”

“Of course I do. Why else would I buy one every day?”

Charles gestured at the trashcan.

“Ah, yeah… Gluten doesn’t sit well with me.”

Charles grabbed the sandwich on the counter again. “Why didn’t you tell me?” God, how embarrassing. Every day for months now, he’d tried to poison Hubert with gluten. Or he hadn’t actively tried, but damn.

Hubert sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “The first couple of times, I asked for gluten-free bread, but you…” He shrugged. “And the filling is good.”

“Oh my God!” He’d asked for it. Charles had been super nervous the first few times Hubert had walked up to the window. He looked like a leather daddy every morning when he arrived, and Charles didn’t do those. He changed clothes before ordering his sandwich, and Charles had realized the leathers were because Hubert rode his motorbike to work—he didn’t wear them as a statement. At least not the statement Charles had first assumed. But given he’d believed he was speaking to a grunting, tattooed, leather daddy out to spank his mostly innocent ass, it was likely he’d missed the gluten-free part. “I’m so sorry. I’ll get you another one. A gluten-free one.”

Hubert waved a hand and Charles hesitated. “Why didn’t you tell me later on?” If he’d told him a month in, he’d have heard him. By then he’d stopped freaking out and only got a little nervous every time he saw Hubert.

The a-little-nervous had stuck.

Charles didn’t know what it was, but Hubert made him tingly. Which he, of course, never would admit to anyone. Not only did he look like a leather daddy, but he was also about fifteen years older than Charles, which, if they by some strange reason would get together, would turn Hubert into a real leather daddy.

Charles shuddered. He didn’t do daddies, and Hubert probably had a wife and eight children or something.

When he looked at Hubert again, he was smiling. Damn, what if he was a mind reader?

“I didn’t want to embarrass you.”

“Oh… eh… You should have anyway. You’re paying for it and only eating the filling can’t keep you full for the entire day.”

Hubert grinned. “Not to worry, I bring lunch.”

“What? Why the heck do you buy sandwiches from me every day then?” They weren’t cheap. The entire business idea was to offer sandwiches to people who were traveling and therefore didn’t have many options.

Hubert laughed. “You think about that.” Then he winked, and Charles forgot how to breathe.

“I’ll… eh… make you a gluten-free one.” He clutched the sandwich and hurried out of the candy shop.

What had happened? He must’ve imagined the wink. Must have. People like Hubert didn’t wink.

Right as he crossed the waiting hall aisle, someone jumped him.

He shouted as they shoved a black hood over his head, fought the hold on his arms while he crushed the sandwich in his hand. Hubert growled in the distance, and Charles pulled in a breath. Hubert would save him.

“It’s a birthday kidnapping.” Charles could’ve sworn it was Connor speaking.

“Connor?”

“Yeah, sit back and relax, Charlie boy. We’ve got you covered.”

Charles fought Connor’s hold again. “Take off the hood.”

“Nope, it’s all part of the plan.”

“Connor, I’m working.”

Connor laughed, and Mikael and someone else joined in.

“Charles?” It was the first time Hubert had called him Charles and not Charlie despite Charles correcting him every time.

“Yeah?”

“Do you know these guys?”

Charles sighed. “Yeah. We went to school together. It’s Connor, Mikael and…”

“Adam.”

Charles nodded as Adam spoke. Adam was a quiet man, but it didn’t mean he was much better than Connor and Mikael. A knot formed in Charles’s belly. They didn’t hang out these days. There had been too many incidents Charles wasn’t comfortable with, but they tended to celebrate each other’s birthdays. Nowadays, Adam rarely came along on those. He’d stopped hanging out with them before Charles had, but without Adam it was no fun at all.

Charles’s birthday was still two months away though.

Bookversary | The Dragon Next Door

The Dragon Next Door

It’s National Neighbour Day, which means The Dragon Next Door turns one 🥳 This is one of my favourite stories of all I’ve ever written.

Where I live now, I can see three houses, all of them summer houses that are empty for most of the year. If I go outside, I can see a fourth, and in that there actually is someone living. I can also see the driveway of a fifth house where a 70+ lady is living. If I walk out on the road, I can see the driveway to a sixth house, another summer house that hardly ever has any inhabitants.

I feel trapped. I tell my husband every week, during some periods every day, that we have to move. The next house we live in, there won’t be any visible houses… hopefully. It can go days without me seeing or talking to anyone, but it’s the possibility of neighbours that stresses me out.

So in my world, a good neighbour is an invisible neighbour (Oh, I should write a story with a ghost neighbour!), and therefore Adrian is my worst nightmare. And yet I love him.

I’m glad he’s not real or it would’ve been cool if he was, but then I’d hoped he’d live far from me. He’s still one of my favourite characters though because being in his head was lovely. He’s a sunshine character, and we can all use some light now and then 😊

The Dragon Next Door

thedragonnextdoor

Adrian Green’s new next-door neighbor isn’t really a dragon, but he does snarl an awful lot.

The first time Adrian saw Lorcan Walsh, he knew he needed Adrian’s help. Lorcan has a fractured leg and an empty apartment. Luckily, Adrian doesn’t mind helping him fill his lair with gems, and Doris’s second-hand shop has everything a dragon could possibly want.

The problem is, Lorcan doesn’t seem to want his apartment decorated, and sneaking presents past a grumpy dragon isn’t easy.

All Adrian wants is to cheer Lorcan up, but when Lorcan’s ex appears at the door, Adrian fears not even vintage coffee cups will get them their fairy-tale ending. What if the way to a dragon’s heart isn’t lined with treasures?

Buy links:

Gay Romance: 14,488 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/TheDragonNextDoor

Excerpt:

Adrian carried a box of plates, cups, glasses, and cutlery. Not a single piece matched and yet they fit together beautifully. He and Doris had spent a good couple of hours going through the entire shop and settled on blue and white decor. They were all beautiful pieces, and Adrian wanted to keep them for himself, but it was a gift to Lorcan.

No wonder he was unhappy. All dragons needed a hoard, and his cave was barren.

Grinning to himself, he jogged up the last flight of stairs and found Lorcan’s doorbell with his elbow.

Seconds went by without any sounds coming from the apartment. Adrian pressed the doorbell again.

Still nothing.

With a huff, he put the box down and opened the mail slot. “Hello? Lorcan?”

Maybe it was wrong to assume he was a dragon? The growl coming from within sounded more like a werewolf. Adrian kept looking through the tiny opening of the mail slot until one bare foot came into view, then he stepped back and grabbed the box of crockery.

The door opened, and Lorcan scowled at him. “What?”

“I come bearing gifts.” Adrian bowed and pushed past him into the apartment, having learned his lesson from last time to not try to hand something to Lorcan.

He went straight for the kitchen and poured water into the sink. “Where do you keep your dish soap?”

Lorcan watched him with narrowed eyes. “I don’t.”

It took several seconds before Adrian understood what he meant. “I have an extra bottle.”

Hurrying out of the door, he almost ran into Jesse on his way to his apartment. “Hi!”

Jesse waved in the middle of a yawn. “What are you doing in there?”

“I brought him some plates and cups and stuff.”

Jesse shook his head.

“He has to have some plates.” Adrian put his hands on his hips.

“Whatever, man. Wanna watch a movie later?”

Adrian glanced at Lorcan’s door. He wouldn’t want Adrian to hang around for long. “Sure.”

“Sweet. Pizza?”

Adrian held in a sigh. Jesse always wanted to order pizza. Adrian worried about his nutritional intake, and did his best to sneak in some vegetables and fruit when they hung out. “I can make something.”

Jesse pursed his lips. “No tofu.”

Adrian threw his hands in the air. “There is nothing wrong with tofu.”

“I disagree.” Jesse grinned at him.

“Whatever. Seven?” It would give him time to cook something.

“Sure.”

Jesse headed down the stairs, and Adrian hurried into his kitchen and grabbed the extra bottle of dish soap he kept under the sink. Before he went back to Lorcan, he wrote dish soap on the shopping list he kept by the coffee maker. He always wanted a backup of everything, should he unexpectedly run out. And it was lucky he did, since he now had a bottle he could give to Lorcan.

He closed the door behind him and pushed down the door handle on Lorcan’s door only to find it locked. What the hell? He waited, thinking Lorcan must’ve heard him try to open it and would come to let him in. When nothing happened, he pushed the doorbell.

Seconds went by but he didn’t have to shout through the mail slot before Lorcan opened the door. “Oh, you’re back.”

“Of course I’m back.” Adrian glared at him. “I only went to grab detergent.” He held up the bottle. “Jesse and I are gonna watch a movie later, do you want to come? I’ll cook.”

“No.”

Adrian frowned. “It’s across the hall, at Jesse’s, you don’t have to walk far at all on the crutches.”

Lorcan gave him a look he couldn’t interpret—damned blank face. Maybe he was a gargoyle and not a werewolf what with all those stony looks.

“So, what made you move here?” Adrian poured some detergent into the dishwater and set about washing the plates, cups, and glasses he’d brought. He didn’t ask for a dish drainer. The plates truly were lovely. Maybe he should ask Doris to put some aside for him, should she get more.

“I had to find something fast. This was what was available.”

“Yeah?”

When Lorcan didn’t explain why he needed to find something fast, Adrian gritted his teeth. “Towel?”

A raised eyebrow was the only response he got. Adrian grunted and pushed away from the sink. “Don’t lock the door. I’ll be right back.”

Dish towels. He’d see what Doris had in the shop. Sometimes you could find beautiful towels of far better quality than those you bought new and for next to nothing. He grabbed one from his linen closet and headed back to Lorcan’s apartment.

“Which cupboard would you like to keep your plates in?” Adrian had his in the cupboard closest to the window, and he gravitated toward it with the stack of dried plates.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Sure it does.” When Lorcan didn’t answer, he placed the plates on the second shelf and the glasses and cups on the bottom. With a sigh of longing, he looked at them. So pretty.

“Are you sure you don’t want to watch a movie with Jesse and me?”

Lorcan shook his head.

“Okay, then.” Adrian dropped his shoulders. “If you change your mind, you know where to find us.” He motioned in the direction of Jesse’s apartment.

Labor Day Sale!

Labor Day

There’s a sale over at JMS Books! If you hop on over there, you can grab ebooks for 40% off Saturday through Monday. May I suggest checking out A.L. Lester, Nell Iris, Amy Spector, Ellie Thomas, Addison Albright, Kris T. Bethke, K.S. Murphy, K.L. Noone, Mere Rain, Tinnean, or any of the other awesome authors hanging out there?

You’ll find all my books here!

Since we’re heading into colder times in the northern hemisphere, I thought I’d share a snippet from Call Me Charles.

Call Me Charles

Call Me CharlesTwenty minutes later, Charles was standing where they’d parked Mikael’s car. It was gone.
He clutched the paddle, tears welling up in his eyes. He was frozen to the bone. It was as if his body didn’t know if it was hot or cold. It burned, and yet he was so cold he couldn’t control the shaking.
He didn’t feel his feet as he stumbled along the narrow gravel road in the direction of the paved one. They had to come back for him. They’d already had a couple of nights where it had dropped below freezing. They couldn’t leave him cold and wet with no means to get home.
And what was he to do with the paddleboard? The number of the renting company was written on it, but he didn’t have his phone.
A tear escaped the corner of his eye, and he angrily wiped it away with the back of the hand.
They had to come back.
He kept on walking, the gravel digging into his feet, but he hardly noticed. Exhaustion settled in his bones. What was he doing? Walking half-naked in the thickening dark.
Some time later, he reached the crossing where the gravel road ended and the country road following the coastline took over. Sighing, he looked in both directions. There was no traffic.
He should know in which direction to walk, but he wasn’t sure. In the end, he took to the right and walked along the side of the road.
An eternity later, the sound of an engine came closer. Charles dropped the board and waved the paddle. He took a step out into the road, but the car only honked and drove past him.
A sob escaped before he knew he was crying. His body ached, his joints burned, his teeth chattered, and he was getting dizzy. He hadn’t eaten, hadn’t had anything to drink for hours, and he had no idea where he was.
He walked and walked but the road looked the same. There was the occasional street lamp, but nothing indicating he was getting closer to the city. Was he walking in the wrong direction?
There was a vehicle coming closer. It didn’t sound like the car had.
Charles squinted at the only headlight—motorcycle? He stepped out into the grass next to the road, not wanting to get hit. He wore nothing reflective and it was truly dark now.
The motorbike passed him, and Charles continued his walk. Then the engine stopped.
“Charlie?”
Charles turned with a frown.
“Charles, is that you?”
Charles squinted at the figure dressed in black leather. He recognized the voice. “H-Hubert?” His teeth chattered, and he sucked in a shuddering breath.
“What the hell are you doing?” He rolled the bike to the side of the road, got off, and removed his helmet. Charles didn’t respond. He didn’t know what he was doing.
“Charles.”
Why was he growling?
“Charlie.” He waved a hand in front of his eyes. “Are you high?”
Charles shook his head. “C-Cold.”
Hubert cursed. “Why aren’t you dressed? Where are your friends?”
Charles shrugged, and to his horror, a tear trickled down his cheek. He wiped it away and prayed Hubert wouldn’t comment on it.
“Oh, honey, what happened?” Hubert grabbed the paddle, pulled it out of Charles’s hand, and wrapped an arm around him. The leather was cold against his wet T-shirt and skin and didn’t offer any of the heat Charles needed.
“They left me on the beach.”
Hubert was quiet for several seconds. “Where are your clothes?”
Charlie shrugged—or tried to, his muscles weren’t cooperating.
“We need to get you somewhere warm. How long have you been walking wet and without clothes?”
Filling his lungs, Charles tried to think. “S-Since b-before dark.”
“For fuck’s sake.” Hubert increased the distance between them and rubbed his arms. “Why aren’t you dressed?”
“They had me paddle boarding.” He gestured at the board.
Another growl followed.
“I didn’t know where to leave it.”
“Fuck the board!”
“B-But it’s rented. I h-have to return it.”
Hubert groaned. “Charles—” Hubert never called him Charles. “—they rented the board, not you. Let them deal with it.”
“Why did you call me Charles?”
“You want me to call you Charles.”
Charles nodded. “But you never do.”
“I didn’t, no, but then they came, and they called you Charlie despite you wanting to be called Charles.”
Charles giggled. He didn’t know why, but it spilled out through his chattering teeth. Hubert who always called him Charlie wouldn’t because Connor called him Charlie? It didn’t make sense.
Hubert smiled. “You’re adorable, but I think we need to get you warm sooner rather than later.”
Charles nodded. He’d love to get warm, but how?
“I live a few minutes’ ride up this road, but I fear you’ll freeze to death on the bike.” Hubert’s gaze traveled his body from his wet hair to his dirty toes. Unzipping his jacket, he shook it off. “Here.” He held it up so Charles could stick his arms in, but he couldn’t get himself to let go of the paddleboard.
“The board.”
“Put it to the side of the road. I’ll come back for it while you take a shower, okay?”
Charles nodded and put the board by the side of the road as instructed. Then he pushed his arms through the sleeves of the jacket. It was warm but so stiff and heavy he couldn’t move.
“It’s not a good fit, but better than nothing.” Hubert zipped up. “If we crash, we’re toast, but I’ll drive really fucking slow, and you’re wearing the helmet.”
Charles looked at him. He’d never been on a motorcycle, he liked living too much.
“It’ll be cold as fuck, but it’s only a few minutes, okay?”
Charles nodded. He didn’t think he could get any colder.
It turned out he could. Once Hubert had helped him onto the bike and got them rolling, Charles realized that while he’d been frozen before, the natural wind was nothing compared to being on a bike.
He hugged Hubert hard and curled up as much as he could behind him. Hubert didn’t go fast, part of Charlie was aware of it, and yet they flew down the road. They passed the gravel road Charles had walked from the beach and continued on. The night was thick, the air cold, and Charles was floating. A sense of weightlessness filled his chest.
Hubert turned in on a tiny gravel road, driving so slow Charles feared they’d fall. He rounded a corner, passed some trees and shrubs, and then came the tiniest little house he’d ever seen. Hubert turned in on the miniature, grass-covered driveway. The shed in front of them couldn’t be called a garage, for no way a car would fit in there, there was one parked on the small lawn next to the shed, though. He wished Hubert had driven it instead.
Charles hurried to get off the bike and almost fell when his numb feet touched the ground.
“Easy.”
“Sorry, my legs aren’t working as they should.”
Hubert shook his head and muttered something.
“What?”
“Worry not, we’ll get you warm in no time.”

Grab Call Me Charles here!