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Silvia Violet

Guest Blogger: Lauren Gallagher/L.A. Witt

Jun 14, 2011 Filed under: guest blogger

Hi Lauren! Thank you for joining us today. Would you start off by telling us about your latest release?

My latest is Damaged Goods, written under the name Lauren Gallagher (my M/M books are written as L. A. Witt).  Damaged Goods was just released by Loose Id, LLC, and the blurb is as follows:

Jocelyn Rhodes is a single mother with a demanding career and a long-neglected libido. Frustrated with the dating scene and way overdue for some satisfying sex, she takes a friend’s advice and hires Sabian, a deliciously sexy escort. He’s well worth the money, and the sheets haven’t even cooled off before she’s ready to call him again.

The more time she spends with him, the more she realizes she and Sabian have more in common than she thought. She’s a single mom, he’s a prostitute, and when it comes to dating, they’re both damaged goods. To most potential mates, Jocelyn and Sabian are in a category akin to dented soup cans, but if the two of them can look past each other’s respective dents, they just might find something they’ve both been missing.

But even if they do find that something, how on earth can she make a relationship work with a man who sleeps with other women for a living?

The book is available here.

What is your favorite genre to write? What other genres do you enjoy? – Contemporary M/M erotic romance is probably my favorite, but I’m also really starting to enjoy some flavors of urban fantasy. I just finished the first book in a vampire/were series, and I’ve got a shapeshifter book, Static, due out this month from Amber Allure. So, I’m kinda dabbling in a little of everything right now, and enjoying the variety.

Do you have a favorite character from one of your books? – It’s impossible to nail one down and call him/her my favorite, but Scott Moore, the Dom from Light Switch and Reconstructing Meredith, is definitely high on the list.  I also adore Nick Swain and Andrew Carmichael from Cover Me. They came back as secondary characters in Trust Me (the sequel, due out in July from Carnal Passions), and they’ll be back center stage for the third book, Search Me, which will be out later this year.

Is there a style or genre of writing that you haven’t tired yet but you’d like to explore? – Historical. Now that I’m getting into steampunk, I’m itching to write some actual 19th century historical, but God only knows when I’ll work it into my schedule.

How do you make time in your life for writing? – My husband would say that it’s the other way around: I make time in my writing for everything else. LOL  I do try to balance work and play, but let’s face it, I’m a workaholic.

If you decide to take a Saturday off, what are we likely to find you doing? Snorkeling or wandering around Okinawa with my camera in front of my face.

Choose six adjectives to describe yourself. Eccentric, neurotic, insecure, shameless, crazy, prolific.

Describe the perfect meal. – Kobe steak and Japanese curry. OMG. I wasn’t a fan of curry before I came to Japan, but it is so. Freaking. AWESOME.  It has a milder spice and stronger flavor than Indian, and…yeah. Awesome.

If you were a dessert what would you be and why? Something with pineapple in it. Why? Because pineapple is awesome. They have a pineapple farm here where you can get pineapple ANYTHING. Cookies, tarts, jam, cakes, pies, little cookies made out of two pancakes with pineapple jelly in the middle, pineapple creampuffs, all kinds of things. And they’re completely and totally—sorry, what was the question?

Would you share an excerpt or two?

DAMAGED GOODS

Jocelyn Rhodes is a single mother with a demanding career and a long-neglected libido. Frustrated with the dating scene and way overdue for some satisfying sex, she takes a friend’s advice and hires Sabian, a deliciously sexy escort. He’s well worth the money, and the sheets haven’t even cooled off before she’s ready to call him again.

The more time she spends with him, the more she realizes she and Sabian have more in common than she thought. She’s a single mom, he’s a prostitute, and when it comes to dating, they’re both damaged goods. To most potential mates, Jocelyn and Sabian are in a category akin to dented soup cans, but if the two of them can look past each other’s respective dents, they just might find something they’ve both been missing.

But even if they do find that something, how on earth can she make a relationship work with a man who sleeps with other women for a living?

EXCERPT
Eight fifteen, the blue numbers on the clock beside the bed announced without enthusiasm. Fifteen minutes till showtime.

It was a decent hotel. Not the Four Seasons, but not a roach-infested shit hole. A pair of queen-size beds. Thick drapes to block out the rest of the world and its prying eyes. A couple of watercolor prints so bland they almost disappeared into the pastel wallpaper.

It was the kind of place with people in nearby rooms and reassuringly thin walls. The murmur of room 412’s television was just barely audible, and earlier, room 416’s shower had added a whisper of white noise for a few minutes. At least this place wasn’t Hotel No-One-Can-Hear-You-Scream, though if everything went according to plan tonight, the guests in the adjacent rooms would probably wish it was.

Rather than staring at the other bed, which was already turned down in undeniable anticipation of the next few hours, I focused on one of the watercolors on the wall, though I had virtually no interest in the lifeless image of some flowers in a vase. I’d once heard that there’d been studies performed that determined pastel colors had a soothing effect on people. Rumor had it some sports teams had painted the visiting team’s locker rooms with that scheme in mind. I couldn’t say if it ever worked on a rival football or baseball team, but it didn’t do a damned thing to slow my pounding heart or unwind my knotted stomach.

What the hell am I doing here?

Groaning, but not loud enough for it to carry into neighboring rooms, I rubbed my eyes.

I had everything. The husband. The kids. The white picket fence and the moat of perfectly manicured grass encasing a flawless suburban four-bedroom on a street where nothing ever happened except gossip and barbecues. A sensible car. A refrigerator covered with grade-school pictures, grocery lists, and Garfield magnets. A calendar full of meetings with prestigious clients and blowhards.

Oh, and a drawer full of sexy lingerie I hadn’t worn in years.

I had had everything.

I did still have most of it. The kids, the car, the house. The overloaded calendar and neglected lingerie. Thanks to that calendar, the grass wasn’t so perfectly manicured anymore, but my son kept it trimmed enough to appease the homeowner’s association.

The husband was long gone. Amicably divorced, happily remarried, completely oblivious to where I was tonight while the kids were with him.

Yeah, I had everything. Which was, of course, why I now reclined on a rented, rock-hard, queen-size bed, waiting for a male prostitute to show up.

No, not a prostitute. An “escort.” So said the company’s site, the woman I’d spoken to on the phone, and Kim, the friend who’d referred me to Elite Escorts to begin with. An “escort” who’d meet me in a hotel room and do anything I asked in exchange for three hundred prepaid dollars.

Not a prostitute at all.

Eight twenty-one. Nine minutes to go.

“Trust me, Jocelyn,” Kim had said. “These guys are top quality. You won’t regret it.”

Wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t regret admitting I was so desperate for headache-free sex that I’d pay money to skip the crap and get to the fun part. I was buying sex. Nothing to be ashamed of or regret or hope to God no one ever found out about.

I groaned again, and this time the other guests might have heard me, but the TV noise didn’t falter, nordid the silence in the other room. This was a bad idea. A really bad idea. What was I thinking?
I knew exactly what I was thinking. I was thinking about the fact that I hadn’t had a decent night of no-strings, no-bullshit sex in entirely too long. I’d wondered for a while if it was even possible to have sex without first killing an evening feigning interest in the uninteresting, talking about anything except the reason we were both there, all the while dancing the dance of “I want this; do you want this?” until someone finally broke down and made a move. And even then there was no guarantee the sex would be good.

That was just the headache that went into trying to get a one-night stand. The very thought of what it took to kick-start a relationship these days made me want to scream.

Why was I here? Because I wanted to skip the song and dance, cut to the chase, and maybe have some sex that wasn’t so hilariously bad it warranted a “you won’t believe this” conversation with my girlfriends. I had more of those stories than I cared to admit.

Eight twenty-four.

I checked my cell’s sent messages for the thirtieth time to make sure I’d sent the right room number to the phone number the agency had given me. The room was correct, the message had transmitted, and my stomach tightened a little more.

Now that he was mere minutes away, another thought occurred to me: what if I wasn’t attracted to this guy at all? Every photo on the site had been gorgeous, but that didn’t mean a thing. I’d done enough online dating to know how deceptive a profile picture could be. It wasn’t that I was excessively picky, but the fact was love was blind, lust was not. I didn’t need Adonis, but I could do without the Elephant Man.

Kim had spoken highly of the agency, though, and she was the princess of pickiness. Any man for her had better be well-dressed, well-groomed, and well-hung, and if he couldn’t get her off at least twice with his mouth, she wouldn’t return his calls. Couldn’t imagine why she was thirty-nine and still single.
That pickiness was why she’d started using Elite Escorts to begin with.

“Once in a while,” she’d told me, “I just want a long night with a beautiful man who wants nothing more than to make me come and fuck me senseless.” And in spite of the fact that I eventually wanted a husband, or even a lover who stuck around for more than a few months, that was all I wanted tonight.
Of course, that wasn’t addressed directly in my interactions with the agency. We’d discussed the things I didn’t want and didn’t allow, all the while very carefully avoiding saying I wanted to have sex with the escort or that he’d be willing to do so. I paid for his company tonight. What happened during the allotted time was up to me, and it cost the same if we spent the evening playing chess, discussing the weather, or…not.

All the cloak-and-dagger of coded phrases and carefully worded questions added to the thrill, but it also made me nervous. What if I got caught? What if my man of choice tonight — a tattooed, goateed escort named Sabian — had a badge in his pocket instead of condoms?

An arrest for soliciting sex from an undercover cop. Oh, Lord, I could only imagine how that would go over at the advertising firm where I worked.

Fuck, what am I doing? I had kids to think of. And a career. My ex-husband had never tried to take the kids from me, but if he found out about this little indiscretion, then what?

I glanced at the clock. Eight twenty-seven. Blood pounded in my ears. Sabian would be here any minute.

I could always go the cowardly route and simply take what I’d paid for: his time and company. Sex wasn’t required. It wasn’t all that unusual for an escort to do exactly as his name suggested and escort his client to a restaurant, the opera, wherever. Perfectly legal. Perfectly socially acceptable.

And perfectly boring.

Eight twenty-eight.

Any second.

To hell with chickening out. I hadn’t shelled out this much money to sit with the guy and talk about bland watercolor flowers. Odds were, he was legitimate, and my libido was pretty persuasive with its suggestions that it was worth the risk that he wasn’t.

Eight twenty-nine.

But if my ex found out. If my boss found out. If my kids found out.

Eight thirty.

I need this. I want this. I’m going to do this. Shit. I can’t do this.

A sharp knock startled me.

Too late for second thoughts.

Gulping back my nervousness and ignoring the swarm of cracked-out butterflies in my stomach, I rose and approached the door warily.

I took a deep breath. Turned the deadbolt. Opened the door.

Madre de Dios.

Standing across the threshold was the kind of man who’d never have noticed me if I hadn’t just put a few Benjamins into his pocket. In photos, he was gorgeous. In the flesh, absolutely stunning. His light brown hair was playfully mussed, the look that was just shy of an engraved invitation to run my fingers through it. His hazel eyes edged closer to green now than they had in his photos, which was probably just a trick of the light. He was several inches taller than me with a flat stomach and broad shoulders, and I immediately had the impression he could throw me around and get rough if I wanted him to, and I did. Hell yes, I did.

The Elephant Man he was not.

STATIC

Damon Bryce is worried sick when he doesn’t hear from his girlfriend after she visits her estranged parents, but when he checks up on her, he’s in for the shock of his life: She’s a shifter, part of a small percentage of the population who can shift genders at will. Thanks to her parents, though, she’s been forcibly given an implant that leaves her static—unable to shift—and male.

Alex Nichols desperately wants the implant removed, but getting it out isn’t nearly as easy as putting it in. The surgery is expensive and dangerous. Left in, the implant carries its own set of risks, with the potential to cripple or even kill him. On top of that, he’s carefully kept his identity a secret from more people in his life than just Damon, and his parents aren’t the only ones appalled by shifters.

Stripped of half his identity and facing serious physical effects and social ramifications, Alex needs Damon more than ever, but he doesn’t see how their relationship can get through this unscathed.
Especially if Alex is a static male permanently.

EXCERPT

When my girlfriend’s cell phone went straight to voicemail for the fourth time in twenty-four hours, “worried” didn’t even begin to describe it.

I paced beside my kitchen table, eyeing my phone like it might suddenly spring to life with her ringtone the way I’d begged it to all day long. I hadn’t expected to hear from her last night. She’d had plans to have lunch with her estranged parents yesterday, and after those get-togethers, it wasn’t at all unusual for her to hole up in the house and block out the world for a while. It bothered me and worried me whenever she did that—the woman could drink like nobody’s business when she was upset—but the next morning always meant a text message saying she was okay. Hungover, probably depressed as hell, but okay.

This morning, that text didn’t come.

More than likely, things hadn’t gone well. They never did. I’d told myself all day long that she just needed some space, some time. I didn’t want to crowd her or smother her when she needed to be alone, but damn it, something about this raised the hairs on the back of my neck.

I looked at my watch. It was almost eight. Over thirty-six hours since she was supposed to meet them. Almost forty-eight since I’d heard from her at all. Something was wrong. It had to be.

Without another second thought, I grabbed my phone and keys. I hoped she’d be irritated with me showing up at her door. Annoyed by the intrusion, aggravated by me coming to her before she was ready to interact with the outside world again. At least that would mean she was home safe.

I pulled out of the driveway and ignored the posted speed limit. We lived about twenty minutes apart, and I was determined to get there in under fifteen. Ten if I could swing it.

I’d never met Alex’s family. She’d told me little about them, but just the way her hackles went up at the mere mention of her parents’ existence spoke volumes. It wouldn’t have surprised me in the least if they had abused her when she was young, and not just in the emotional, manipulative ways I assumed they still did. She was prone to unpredictable bouts of deep depression, which had been more frequent and more severe in the last six months or so. She went through phases—hours, days, weeks—when she’d balk at any suggestion of physical intimacy. Sometimes she didn’t mind an affectionate touch, but recoiled at the first hint of anything remotely sexual. An arm around her could make her melt against me or shrink away like a beaten dog, and I never knew when to give her space and when to give her a shoulder.

Then, almost overnight, she’d be insatiable in bed. Whenever I asked her about it, she clammed up. Apologized, avoided my eyes, changed the subject.

What did they do to you, baby?

I supposed it shouldn’t have surprised me that she’d refused to discuss the idea of getting married. After two years, I was more than ready to make this permanent, but she wasn’t.  A couple of her worst depressive episodes were close on the heels of those conversations, so I’d let the subject drop. I just hoped she’d come around eventually. I’d wait. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Turning down Alex’s street, I took a few deep breaths and willed my pounding heart to slow down. She was fine. Probably drunk and upset, but no more worse for the wear than the last time she saw her mother and stepfather. I was overreacting. I was being too protective.

Or maybe I wasn’t.

I chewed my lip as her house came into view up ahead. Her car was parked in front of the garage, and the faint glow of a single lamp illuminated her living room window. There were no other cars in the driveway or on the street, so presumably she was alone. Assuming, of course, she was home. Someone else could have driven her somewhere, or she—

Easy, Damon. Don’t jump to conclusions yet.

Heart still pounding, I parked beside her car. On my way up to the porch, I hesitated, wondering for the hundredth time if she’d be upset with me showing up when she clearly didn’t want to see anyone. No, she’d understand. She might be pissed off at first, but when she calmed down, she had to understand why I was concerned.

After almost turning back twice, I made myself get all the way on to the front porch, and before I could find another reason to talk myself out of it, I knocked. Waited. I craned my neck a little, listening for movement on the other side of the door.

Nothing.

My heart beat faster. I knocked again, harder this time.

Still nothing.

I rocked back and forth from my heels to the balls of my feet, staring at the door and wondering if I should give it one more try or leave. In my coat pocket, my keys ground against each other as I ran my thumb back and forth over them. Her house key was on the ring. I could let myself in. Damn it, where was the line between intrusion and caution?

One more try, and if she doesn’t answer, I’ll go.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Silence.

I exhaled hard, a knot twisting in my gut. She wasn’t here. Or she wasn’t answering. Whatever the case, I wasn’t going to stand here all night, so I turned to go.

Movement inside the house stopped me in my tracks. I froze, listening, and the muffled sound of approaching footsteps sent a cool rush of relief through my veins.

The deadbolt turned. I exhaled.

Then the door opened, and that relief turned to something else. Something much colder.

“Who the—” My breath and voice stopped in my throat. Confusion and fury slithered through my veins as I stared at the man on the other side of the threshold. He leaned on the door and rested his arm on the doorframe. Vague surprise flickered across his expression and straightened his posture, but the heavy fatigue in his eyes kept his reaction subdued. I wondered if he was drunk. Or maybe he’d been asleep. In my girlfriend’s bed. That was all too likely, I realized: he was pale, sleepy-eyed, dressed only in a pair of grey sweatpants, and his short, dark hair was disheveled enough to imply far more than I ever wanted to know.

Alex, baby, tell me you didn’t…

I finally found my voice again. “Who the fuck are you?”

Barely whispering, barely even keeping his eyes open, he said, “You might want to sit down for this. Come in and—”

“Just tell me what the fuck is going on,” I snapped.

He flinched, closing his eyes. “I can explain.” His voice was quiet and slurred. “Please, just—”

“You can explain?” I snarled. “Yeah, please do, because—”

Flinching again, he put a hand up. “This isn’t what it looks like. Not even close.”

I laughed bitterly. “Oh, I’m sure it’s not.” With every word, the barely contained fury rose, as did the volume of my voice. “I suppose you’re just keeping her company? Where the fuck is she? Where—”

“Damon.”

“You…you know who I am?”

He nodded slowly. “Yes, I do.”

The anger swelled in my chest. “But you’re still—”

“Please.” His hand went to his temple, and he grimaced as he whispered, “Don’t shout. You’re upset, I get it, I understand, but…” He winced. “Please. Don’t. Shout.”

I furrowed my brow. Anger made me want to grab his shoulders and show him the meaning of the word “shout,” but I held back. Quieter now, I said, “What’s going on?”

He stepped back and gestured for me to come in. I hesitated, but then followed him into Alex’s house.

He closed the door and leaned against it, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. A low, pained sound escaped his throat.  The light in here was dim, but not enough to hide just how pale he was.
“Are you—” I eyed him. “Are you all right?”

“No.”  Lowering his hands, he rested his head against the door. Dark circles under his eyes and a dusting of five-o’clock shadow along his jaw only served to emphasize his alarming pallor. After a moment, he opened his eyes. He winced and brought his hands up again. “This is going to sound weird, but bear with me. I need to lie down.”

“Why?”

“Because when I stand, my head hurts so bad I can’t see straight.” With what looked like a hell of a lot of effort, he pushed himself off the door, paused when his balance wavered, then started toward the living room. I wasn’t sure if I should be impatient or concerned. At this point, the one thing I knew was that he was the only one who might know where Alex was, so I followed him.

With his back to me, a small white bandage was visible in the middle of his back. Perhaps two inches square, taped in place over his spine a few inches above his waistband. My own spine prickled with goose bumps. Contrasting sharply with his pale skin was a smear of something brownish-red. I thought it might be blood at first, but it looked too orange. Iodine, maybe? The remnants of something used to sterilize skin before a medical procedure?

Eyeing the bandage and the iodine and this stranger in my girlfriend’s house, I wasn’t sure this situation could get any weirder.

He eased himself onto Alex’s couch like he had every right to do so, and I took a seat in the recliner. For a long moment, he kept a hand over his eyes and didn’t speak. He took a few long, deep breaths, jaw clenched and cheek rippling as if trying to keep himself from getting sick. I might have suspected he was severely hungover or something had it not been for that bandage.

I waited. A million demands, accusations, and pleas for information were on the tip of my tongue, but I waited.

Without lifting his hand, he finally spoke in a quiet, vaguely slurred monotone. “None of this is going to be easy for you to hear, and I’m sorry I didn’t explain it a long time ago.”

I blinked. A long time ago? I’d never seen this guy in my life. Just how long had this been going on?  Was he the reason she didn’t want to get married? I bit my tongue, though. Let him explain, then get pissed.

“Damon,” he whispered. “I’m a shifter.”

My heart stopped. “What?”

He swallowed. “I’m a shifter. This—” He gestured at himself with the hand that wasn’t shielding his eyes. “—is my male form.”

Confusion kept the pieces from falling to place for several long seconds. Then those pieces did fall into place, and all the air left my lungs in a single exhalation.

No way. No fucking way. But, how? She was…

I somehow managed to pull in another breath. I moistened my lips.

“Alex?” I whispered, almost choking on her name.

With a single, slow nod, he jerked the world out from under my feet.

Comments

One Response | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. L. A. Witt & Lauren Gallagher says:

    Thanks for having me, Silvia!

    Lori

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