2017 top ten gay romance, p.1
2017 Top Ten Gay Romance, page 1
2017 Top Ten Gay Romance
Edited by J.M. Snyder
Published by JMS Books LLC
Visit jms-books.com for more information.
Copyright 2017 JMS Books LLC
Cover Design: Written Ink Designs | written-ink.com
Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.
All rights reserved.
WARNING: This book is not transferable. It is for your own personal use. If it is sold, shared, or given away, it is an infringement of the copyright of this work and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
No portion of this book may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts used for the purposes of review.
This book is for ADULT AUDIENCES ONLY. It may contain sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which might be considered offensive by some readers. Please store your files where they cannot be accessed by minors.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States of America.
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2017 Top Ten Gay Romance
Edited by J.M. Snyder
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Table of Contents:
Introduction by J.M. Snyder
Enchanted Love by Kris T. Bethke
Wake-up Call by Becky Black
My Best Man by Linn Edwards
An Unconventional Relationship by Casper Graham
Unconditionally by Nell Iris
Chapter 1: When Gus Met Luca
Chapter 2: Freak in a Veil
Chapter 3: What Did You Say to Him?
Chapter 4: Sinner, Repent!
Chapter 5: Under the Veil
Chapter 6: Is It Supposed to Be This Easy?
Chapter 7: Dirty Dancing
Chapter 8: Porn-y Lights and the Story of His Life
Chapter 9: That’s No Way to Make a Baby
Epilogue: Intervention and Happily-ever-after
Gratefully His by Shawn Lane
Tortoise Interruptus by JL Merrow
Strange Fortune by Jessie Pinkham
Beau and the Beast by Rick R. Reed
A-dork-able by J.D. Walker
About the Authors
Introduction by J.M. Snyder
As JMS Books enters its sixth year of business, there have been ups and downs, but any company weathers its fair share of growing pains. We’ve learned who our audience is and what they like to read, and the stories in this collection reflect their diverse tastes.
Here you’ll find our best-selling gay romance stories of the past year, and I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
Enchanted Love by Kris T. Bethke
For Michelle. Because of meatloaf, eclairs, long hair, and infectious smiles.
I lost my left shoe as I ran around the corner and up the next flight of stairs, but momentum had me halfway up before I could stop. The metal step was cold beneath my bare foot. The staircase in the reclaimed warehouse had been retrofitted when the building was converted into lofts, and the metal fit the whole industrial vibe. Right this moment, I was regretting the choice. The die-cut tread pattern was sharp.
I bit back the groan by huffing out a breath and looked at the canvas bags I gripped in each hand. Getting them balanced enough so I could make one trip had taken some careful shuffling. The thought of setting some down in order to retrieve my shoe didn’t appeal in the least. I would have to, though. I couldn’t leave the flip flop on the landing between flights. I hardly ever took the elevator, but today it was clear I should have.
“Hey, Cinderella!” The voice was a deep rumble and I squeezed my eyes shut at the edge of mocking I heard. Or perhaps it was just amusement. I’d been told more than once I was too sensitive. A lifetime of conditioning meant I reacted a certain way to anything that sounded remotely like jeering.
“You dropped your slipper.” The owner of the voice was closer now. Right behind me. I took a slow breath and opened my eyes, then peered over my shoulder to see who had spoken.
The air I had just inhaled disappeared in an instant when I took in the perfect male specimen before me. He was tall and broad-shouldered. He obviously spent time in the gym if the way his biceps strained the sleeves of his T-shirt was any indication. His eyes were a perfect mix of brown and green, surrounded by lush blond lashes, and the smile he wore made his entire face light up. The Giants cap did little to hide his unruly curls, a shade darker than his lashes, and it seemed a contrast to the red tinge of the scruff on his cheeks and chin. A sheen on his face, and the sweat stains on the neck of his shirt, clued me in that he’d been exercising.
I couldn’t stop staring. He was gorgeous. Like male-model-make-everyone-in-the-world-jealous kind of gorgeous. And exactly my type. My gaze darted everywhere, taking him in. I wanted to drop my groceries and throw myself into his arms.
I swayed toward him, my body wanting to be closer and not caring that my head urged caution.
“Whoa there.” He steadied me by gripping my shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Crap. I was acting like a lovesick teenager instead of a grown man. He probably wouldn’t appreciate the advance anyway. With the way my luck went when it came to men, he was straighter than an arrow and a conservative to boot.
“Yes. I—” I cleared my throat and stood straighter. “Sorry. I was rushing.”
“Yeah, I saw that.” He grinned again, then held up the flip flop. “I picked up your shoe.”
“Thank you.” I tried to smile back. As I lifted a hand to take the shoe from him, I realized the bags still weighed me down. I felt foolish and cleared my throat again. Managing to free a pointer finger, I stuck it out, then looked at him again. “If you’d be so kind.”
“You want some help?” He gave a head-tip to the bags. “Those seem pretty heavy. I could give you a hand.”
I blinked. Then squinted and scrutinized his face. It seemed like a genuine offer. People didn’t usually offer me assistance unless they knew who I was. Then again, maybe he did know who I was. I’d been in the news a lot lately, and if he ever turned on a TV, he’d probably
“That would be great.”
His smile grew wider still, and he placed the flip flop onto the stair by my naked foot. Then he took all the bags as easy as anything. Just slipped his fingers in with mine and relieved me of the entire burden. I wobbled at the sudden absence of weight, and reached out to grip the railing.
“Oh! I didn’t mean you should—”
His one-shouldered shrug cut me off. “No big deal. I can deadlift more than you weigh. This is nothing.”
That huge grin again. Did he ever stop smiling? I wasn’t likely to find out, but I was more than happy to bask in it while I could. I dropped my gaze as I slid my foot into the forgotten shoe, then started the trek up the stairs. My savior kept pace easily up the next three flights and wasn’t even winded when we reached the top floor.
“The penthouse floor. Nice! I should have guessed a pretty man like you would have nothing but the best.”
I squinted again. Was that an insult? Or did he actually think I was pretty? I couldn’t tell. He seemed earnest enough, but I’d been burned too many times to trust someone right now. Especially a man. Especially if he knew who I was. My gut reaction was to go on the defensive, but I bit my tongue as I pushed open the door. I hadn’t gotten as far as I had by making rash decisions. And though my track record with men wasn’t the best, I was much more practical with business. I knew when to keep my mouth shut.
The top floor had two penthouse lofts, one on either side of the hall. Mine was the larger, facing the east so I could watch the sunrise, and didn’t have the elevator taking twenty feet of potential space. It was also the only one that was occupied. The building had been open for occupancy for only six months, and though the rest of the building was full, the second penthouse had yet to be leased.
“This is me.” I gestured to the double doors halfway down the hall on the left. I pulled my fob from my pocket and held it to the RFID reader beside the door. The light turned green, and I pushed open the door.
“The keyless entry is why I moved in here,” my companion said conversationally as I held the door for him to enter behind me. “Very secure. I like feeling safe.”
Pride swelled in my chest. That was the exact reason I’d chosen that method of locks for the building. My contractor had been against it because he thought it was an unnecessary expense. The wiring alone had put things over budget, and he was worried things would go wrong. But I had insisted. A keyless lock was a lot harder to break into than a traditional one, and I wanted the highest security possible. Full-time security staff wasn’t enough.
“I’m Chase, by the way. Chase Prinsen. I just moved in on the second floor about three weeks ago. But man, my place is nothing like yours. This is amazing. And that view…” He whistled out a sound I thought meant he was impressed as he shook his head. Then he shot me another smile as he headed toward the kitchen.
“Thank you,” I responded quietly, glancing around myself. The bulk of the loft was a huge, open concept space. The kitchen flowed right into the dining room, which seamlessly became the living room. I didn’t want walls breaking up the space, especially with the fifteen-foot ceilings. Instead, I’d chosen to delineate the separate “rooms” with furniture. It had taken months and at least twenty meetings with the designer before she’d come up with a concept I liked. I’d added my own touches since, so the place no longer looked like a magazine spread, and instead, felt like home.
I realized Chase was standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding the bags still, and I hurried forward. “Just set them on the counter there. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome, uh…” He gave me a pointed look and only then did I realize I’d neglected to introduce myself.
It was a good thing I’d mastered blushes fifteen years ago or one would have heated my face now. I shook my head at my own foolishness. “I’m Eli Brenner.”
“Eli Brenner,” he repeated thoughtfully, putting the bags on the counter. Only when they were fully resting on the marble did he let go of the handles. “Why does your name sound familiar?”
He didn’t know. Somehow that made me feel a lot better. He’d offered help because he wanted to, not because of my wealth or notoriety. When was the last time that had happened to me? I couldn’t even remember.
“Well, um, you’ve probably heard it around. If you ever watch the news. Or pick up a paper. Or read the contract you signed when you moved in.”
Chase stared at me for a moment, his brow furrowed in concentration. And then, all at once, his expression lightened and that big grin I was already in love with blossomed across his lips. He snapped his fingers, then pointed at me.
“You’re the dude that inherited like a billion dollars and bought up a bunch of run-down properties all over the city. You’re turning them into apartments and subsidized housing and centers for queer kids and battered women and stuff!” Chase shook his head, his eyes wide. “That’s like the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. You rock, man!”
I did actually blush then, heat washing over my face. Having Chase’s approval warmed the pit of my stomach.
“It wasn’t quite that much,” I corrected, not knowing exactly how to react to praise coming from this man. What was it about him that gave me butterflies? I stepped around him and started emptying bags. The frozen stuff was in danger of melting. “And it was only a few buildings, besides this one. I wanted safe spaces.”
Chase nodded. “Like I said, that’s why I picked this place to live, even though the rent was a little higher than I wanted to go. I got tired of always having to watch my back, and I didn’t want to worry about bringing someone home if it was a guy instead of girl.”
It took a moment for the statement to register, but when it did, I dropped a block of frozen penne and chicken in a vodka sauce right onto my foot. The pain shocked me and I bit out a curse before jerking back my foot and holding it up.
“Eli! You okay?” Chase grabbed me, supporting me as he looked at the floor. “Shit, I bet that hurt.”
“Yep,” I managed. My eyes watered.
“Sit down.” Chase stuck out a leg and snagged a barstool, using his foot to drag it closer. He helped me ease onto it, then bent to pick up the box of frozen food. He shoved it into the freezer before he turned to me, wide smile back in place. “Just relax and tell me where these things go. Rest that foot. You think it’s broken?”
I shook my head. The pain was already receding. It’d be tender for a while, but I didn’t think any real damage had been done.
Chase put the rest of the frozen food away, but when he reached for the next bag, I stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Don’t worry about the rest. I’ll get it in a little bit. Nothing else will spoil.”
He studied me. “You sure?”
I nodded. “You want a drink or something?” I wasn’t ready for him to leave.
Chase gave that huge grin. “Water would be great! I need to hydrate after my run. But I can get it! Just point me to the glasses.”
I did, then tried hard not to stare as he retrieved one, filled it, and guzzled down the water. The line of his throat as he swallowed, the way his Adam’s apple bobbed, the expanse of corded muscle under his skin, all combined to make me want to lick a swath up his neck. Which reminded me of his statement. I told myself I wasn’t going to ask for clarification. We didn’t know each other and I shouldn’t pry into his personal life with questions about his sexuality.
“So you’re bi?” Dammit.
“Yeah,” he answered with no self-consciousness whatsoever. Only that big, guileless grin and intense stare from his beautiful hazel eyes. “I knew it since I was a kid, but for a long time I couldn’t say it out loud. Not because I didn’t want to, but because of my family. And the dudes I ran with. I grew up on the south side, and it ain’t the safest place, right? Had to always watch my back, you know? But a few years ago, I said ‘fuck it.’ I was like, I gotta be true to
“Was there trouble? For you, I mean. You said your friends and family wouldn’t approve.”
In answer, he lifted the hem of his shirt. For a moment, that glorious, leanly muscled torso distracted me. He had a six pack that made my mouth go dry. But then I saw what he was showing me, and my breath caught in my throat. Six inches long, a puckered, jagged white line cut across his ribs on the left side.
“Got jumped when I brought a guy home last year. All we were doing was holding hands as we walked to my door. I managed to hold them off so he could run, call the cops. After that, after I recovered, I cut all the haters out of my life and moved. Started looking for a safe place. Didn’t really feel it until I found this building, though.” Chase dropped his shirt and took a step closer to me. “Thank you, Eli. What you’ve done…it’s amazing.”
“I’m gay,” I whispered. “Nothing that bad has ever happened to me but I know what it’s like to fear. Even though equality has come so far, it’s still…It’s a worry. I wanted places where the victimized, the marginalized…” I blew out a breath. “I wanted to create places where people didn’t have to worry and could just be happy.”
Chase reached out a hand like he was going to touch my cheek, but he apparently thought better of it because he dropped it before making contact. His smile was softer this time, gentler, and he took another step forward.
“I already knew you were beautiful, but that just confirmed it.” He touched my hand, then looked me directly in the eye. “Would you maybe want to go out to dinner with me tonight?”
“Yes.” The word was out of my mouth before I even thought about it. Chase’s trademark grin blinded me.
“Awesome. It won’t be anything too fancy, not like you’re used to, I’m sure, but I know a great place. I’ll be back at, like, six? Does that work?” Chase was already moving toward the door. “I’ll pick you up, okay, Eli?”
by J. M. Snyder have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes