🌟 Please join me in welcoming author LJ Collins to Stories That Make You Smile. LJ is here today celebrating his amazing Men in Love and at War series of ten books, and is sharing info, trailers, and excerpts, and sat down to answer a couple questions about himself! 🌟
When the cruise
ship Luke Ganes is working on sinks off the coast of South America, he thinks
he has met his watery grave. Regaining consciousness, he finds himself in a
different world that defies the laws of both nature and gravity. With the help
of his saviour, Girufu, he slowly comes to terms with his new environment and
learns to love his new home, Mistela. When he hears about the evil Taronas and
their quest to slay the Pescamans, he develops a plan to save his newfound
friends from their brutal attacks. As time passes, Girufu proves to Luke he is
the lover Luke has always been looking for. But when Girufu pushes Luke to the
limits of his sexuality, he panics and begins a desperate journey, seeking a
way back to Earth. His arch-rival Janus convinces him he can help. Only love
and a cunning plan can save him from certain death.
Luke had died and gone to Heaven. A silver-white planet hung in the mocha-violet sky like Earth’s moon—but this had to be Heaven’s sun, because the blistering light made him squint. Its heat was strong like a man’s touch. Bubbly champagne waves crept up the shore, and a thousand glistening fairies danced their way back to the calming sea where silver angels floated effortlessly on the surface. Luke had to examine the tall arching palm trees that adorned the shoreline more closely. Their leaves! They pointed up, as if the world had been turned upside down. Was that Heaven? Was it a world of opposites, where there was a moon for the sun, champagne for the salty ocean water and leaves that ran from the sand? He closed his eyes to a spinning darkness and it frightened him—as if he’d slipped into a bad dream.
Like smelling salts, gardenia mixed with magnolia filled his nose and his eyes shot wide open again. Nothing had changed. He was still in an upside down world. The waterfall behind him confirmed it. Upon closer inspection he noticed it was travelling upward. As he squinted to focus more closely, he saw a lake floating above the waterfall, seemingly weightless, like a cloud suspended in thin air. Had he been drugged? No. No, he hadn’t. He’d died and gone to Heaven, surely?
He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, reached out to his right and stumbled across a wooden rail. He took a double take. A wooden rail. With wide alert eyes he quickly scanned his surroundings. He found a rectangular wooden hut that was held together with string. A bowed wooden floor greeted his feet and a roof fabricated from palm tree leaves shielded him from the sun.
The greying rail creaked as Luke pulled himself to his feet. Sun-bleached honey-coloured straw chafed the bottom of his feet and toes. Where the hell was he?
Luke clung to his head as if he’d been hit hard with a hammer. Of course—the cruise ship. He’d been on a cruise ship that had sunk. Every hair on Luke’s body stood on end. He could be anywhere.
Life drained from his body. His legs trembled and buckled, causing him to stumble forward. He grabbed hold of the twisted, cracking rail with both hands. Once he regained his balance he breathed in sharply, pushed himself up using what little strength his arms could offer, and turned around.
The rest of the hut resembled a sitting room. In the centre, a rough chunk of mahogany tree trunk twenty inches high served as a coffee table. Surrounding it were four lengths of tree trunk, three feet wide and five feet tall, that had L’s carved into them to provide oversized bucket seats. In the far left hand corner, he could see a counter that was supported by wonky tree branches held together with string.
Luke breathed out sharply and covered his mouth with his hands. All he wanted was the answer to one question. Where was he? The answer he had in his head almost brought tears to his eyes. Based on the landscape and colours, it didn’t look or feel like Earth.
When he heard someone or something moving behind him, Luke jolted forward so violently he fell to his knees.
“Hey, little man, there’s no need to be so nervous. I only wanted to welcome you to Mistela.”
When he turned around and saw what was walking toward him, Luke tried to scramble to his feet, but his under nourished and lethargic body would not let him. The best he could do was shuffle his way to the far end of the room on his hands and knees as fast as his cumbersome body would take him.
He grabbed out with both hands to find something solid, something that would offer him some support, but loose straw just crumpled in his hands. Wild eyed, his gaze darted to his right. He acknowledged a dense forest deprived of light that led to who knew what. Beyond that was a never-ending sea that would surely be his next watery grave.
An eight foot tall hulking giant, wearing what looked like a bronzed wet suit, stomped toward him. The wooden floor groaned beneath him with every footstep.
Luke’s arms and legs lashed out involuntarily trying to find an escape route. But when the Herculean creature stood directly above him, he froze. Desperately, he quickly surveyed his predator. Bulking shoulders that supported a thick bulldog neck craned forward, bringing the narrow almond face, aquiline nose and small elongated nostrils closer into view. Luke let out a sigh of relief. At least it had human-like features. Perhaps it had the mentality and attitude of a human, too.
He breathed in sharply when he saw the flat, pinned backed ears, wavy lips and flaps of folded skin on his neck. Its green eyes and oval yellow pupils mesmerised Luke. He felt like a deer caught in headlights, unable to move despite knowing it was about to be annihilated.
Luke was consumed with helplessness. Even if his drained body was capable of running, he would not have known where to run. He was in a strange place that he did not know. More worrying was the fact he’d no idea what else might be out there. If the creature towering above him was eight feet tall, what other giant monsters or beasts were out there waiting for him?
He had to accept that since he was only five feet eleven inches tall, this being would be able to catch him within a matter of seconds and crush him into pulp if it wanted to.
What’s in a dream? Maybe nothing or everything. There’s certainly more to it when the same dream keeps recurring and can’t be ignored. Justin’s best friend Lucas suspects it has something to do with their upcoming holiday to Mykonos. He predicts something strangely wonderful is going to happen to Justin while they are there. But nothing could prepare Justin for what was in store for him.
When The 12 Gods fear that humans have learned to think for themselves, diminishing their Godly powers, four Gods are sent to Earth to find out what is really going on. Hesodo is particularly keen to go, but to accomplish a completely different mission—to find Justin and win him back. When Justin has a tragic accident, there is only one option, which results in Justin finding out more than he bargained for about his past love and history, teaching him that dreams should never be ignored.
As Justin glanced at the clock in frustration, it was three forty-two exactly on one of those rare, hot, sticky July nights in London. The window was open, but it might as well have been shut for what little relief it brought. The air was so thick it would have been possible to hang a wire coat hanger in it. Beads of sweat joined in unison to form small damp patches on his forehead and chest as he lay restlessly on his back. His eyelids flickered as the perspiration on his forehead rolled down his face into the corners of his eyes, almost stinging them, so he impatiently wiped them away with the back of his hand.
* * * *
Unbeknown to Justin, a distant admirer was watching him. Through the clammy white Egyptian cotton sheet covering him, his perfectly formed chest and the deeply cut ridges in his abdomen were visible. The admirer licked his lips as he fantasised about what he would do to Justin when the moment came that he made him his again.
The celestial being transmitted his thoughts to Justin, causing his legs and torso to stiffen. He pushed the sheet down to his thighs, exposing yet more of the delectable and youthful human creation.
* * * *
As he slipped into an almost hypnotic state, Justin visualised himself walking cautiously through a dark, moist tunnel that had been cut out of a rock face. Rushes of fear swept through him as he contemplated what he would be faced with at the end of the darkness. The damp, cold atmosphere made Justin shiver, and his skin broke out in goose bumps. With every step, his legs became heavier. His mind took control of his body in an attempt to make him turn back and return to the safety he’d left behind. But there was no turning back—the only way to go was forward, as an unseen and unfelt force drew him toward the faint glimpse of light in the distance. In a drugged-like trance, he was powerless to stop, despite not knowing what dangers might lie ahead.
Coming from an
underprivileged background in the East End of London, Berkeley sets himself the
challenge to escape poverty and do well for himself. Armed with a good brain
and determination, he succeeds and wants for nothing, but there’s a bitter
price to pay. Now the challenge is with himself, and he escapes to the quiet of
Tenerife for love, only to lose it promptly. What now? With no career or
prospects in the unfamiliar country, what is Berkeley to do? He decides to set
up business opening an art gallery, yet knows nothing about art. Comical
disasters, veiled threats and visitors of a spiritual nature, believing that
he’s to be served up to the Devil himself ensue. The whole experience pushes
Berkeley to limits he’s never encountered before, and he learns the hard way
that what goes around really does come around to haunt you. Only love and true
friendships can bring him back to the real world.
EXCERPT – Book 3 – Sun, Sea and a Contemporary Art Gallery
Every night, Berkeley closed the heavy lined curtains to block out any trace of light and life outside, leaving him in complete darkness and alone with his equally dark thoughts in his self-created torture chamber—a dark place where he didn’t want to be—a place where all his worst nightmares came true. But instead of vampires haunting him it was a normal looking guy who had the capacity to hurt him in an equally painful way, by tearing his heart out, destroying his soul and draining him of any drop of hope he had left in his body.
All Berkeley wanted to do was sit down with Roberto and talk things through, but Roberto was as distant, and unreachable as the stars, and adamant there was nothing to talk about. He’d had a change of heart, and that was that, and Berkeley just had to accept it. But how could he? He’d given up his life in London for Roberto based on all his lies and false promises.
Berkeley wanted to punch the wall, but after more liquid relaxant, he buried his head in the tear stained pillow and found some momentary relief that he prayed he wouldn’t wake up from.
When he did wake up, he couldn’t face the reality of the outside world and stayed in bed as long as he could, but then the taunting voice in his head got the better of him. Reluctantly he dragged himself out of his potential place of eternal rest, opened the door and went out onto the balcony.
Even though his surroundings should have filled him with joy and happiness, the loneliness and sense of being abandoned hit him with the force of a sledgehammer. He had no friends or family there to support him and help take the pain away.
He had no man he could call his own, who was going to save his life and offer him a future. He was alone with the thought he dreaded most—being alone at a time when he most needed people around him.
Roberto’s face flashed before his eyes, and Berkeley was reminded that angels can also be the Devil in disguise.
distress of dealing with a failed relationship and business, life starts to
look up for Berkeley when he finds new work and discovers the joys of gay chat
sites. When he meets a captain from the US Army, based in Iraq, his hopes of
love and a bright future rise. After several months, the captain asks Berkeley
to do him a special favour, so he can retire from the army and spend the rest
of his days with him. Berkeley reluctantly agrees, but when the favour results
in him having to part with his hard-earned cash, he is left with no other
choice, but to go to the police. Captain Frances comes to his rescue and what
starts out as a professional relationship quickly turns into a lot more as they
uncover a major internet scam and strive for justice to be served.
Almost five hundred visits in one day! Not even Berkeley could believe the response to his newly created profile on the gay chat site Gaywatch, or the comments and proposals he received.
He’d thought the photos of his gym-trained body, high school hunk looks and a cute smile would attract some attention, but not that much. Like a kid in a candy store, he hurriedly read and responded to the messages and checked out the profiles of those who hadn’t left a message, to see if any of them were worth writing to. Wow. He was discovering a whole new way of meeting men, and he loved it.
While he lived in a beautiful rented apartment in Palm Mar, with views of the ocean and three neighbouring islands, creating the illusion of being in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in reality it was deadsville for a handsome and attractive gay man of thirty-five who was in his sexual prime. Although in all other respects it was idyllic, it was boring, lonely, and better suited to happily married heterosexual couples who were quite content to just enjoy the sun, sea, scenery, and the odd night out at one of the local bars to listen to some third-rate entertainment. But Berkeley wanted much more than that.
Having been forced to leave the north of the island to look for work after a very costly failed business and leave all his friends behind, he craved and desperately needed to find excitement, companionship, love and happiness.
Until he discovered the gay chat site, he thought he was going to die of boredom and loneliness. And after only a day, he suspected that Gaywatch was going to change his life forever and give him everything he longed for.
When he could, he visited his close friend Michael in the north, just so he didn’t feel so alone, and he buried himself in his work so he could forget about finding a man. All his previous relationships had been a disaster, so he’d accepted that being on his own was less painful and frustrating.
His heart was in hibernation, and he’d blocked out the thought and need to be with a man—even though he longed to share his life and experiences with somebody special on the beautiful island of Tenerife—the place he now called home.
Michael expressed his concerns that Berkeley no longer wanted to go to gay bars and clubs, but he was working, so he had to keep his wits about him, because dealing with a smart or awkward client after a night out wasn’t his idea of fun. Even though he’d thought the job was going to be easy, it was more demanding and challenging than he’d thought.
He’d been quite happy to lose himself in his work, because it helped take his mind off men and what he was missing out on.
And why did he need to go to a club when there were thousands of men waiting for him in the comfort of his own home on the other side of a computer screen? He could chat with them for as long or as little as he wanted to and go to bed when he was good and done, because he knew they’d still be there the next day.
He’d made it clear in his profile what his sexual preferences were, and that he was looking for love and a relationship, but guys must have thought he looked good, because that didn’t stop many an admirer sending him some very indecent proposals and photos.
Berkeley quickly sorted the wheat from the chaff and ignored and blocked sex fiends or perverts. While he wasn’t averse to casual sex now and again, he knew the risks and wanted more than that. After years on the gay scene, he knew what casual sex led to, and that was invariably nothing.
No. He wanted more—something deeper and more meaningful than just a quick shag. He could get that anywhere and with most men if he really wanted it.
He’d been there, done that and almost paid the price for his actions on more than one occasion. The most horrifying and memorable experience for Berkeley was when a gorgeous guy who looked and performed like a porn star removed the condom while they were having sex and afterward told Berkeley he was HIV positive.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the guy finished the job off inside Berkeley, so he’d spent the following year worrying about whether he’d been infected. It really hit home to him that not everybody in the world can be trusted. Berkeley learned the hard way that there are a lot of fakes, liars and selfish people who think they can take somebody else’s life into their hands and make decisions and judgements on their behalf.
The guy explained to Berkeley he’d been infected for over twenty years, and the disease was undetectable, but Berkeley quite rightly pointed out he wasn’t a doctor who could offer him a guarantee there would be no repercussions.
After that experience, Berkeley pushed all the negative thoughts to the back of his mind and moved on. He knew he couldn’t trust everybody, but he also knew he couldn’t lock himself away in his apartment and become an old spinster that eventually nobody would want. He acknowledged he had to take some risks in life to find love and happiness, but they had to be calculated risks so he wouldn’t expose himself to the vermin he’d previously encountered.
Berkeley was convinced that Gaywatch was just the way to achieve that. By chatting to guys before having sex, he could ascertain if they were legitimate and understand the risks.
He spent weeks chatting with guys and met up with some of them, but despite their promises, they all proved to be exactly what Berkeley wasn’t looking for—male egos overdosing on testosterone and only looking for casual sex.
Berkeley goes, or whatever he does, drama follows. Having recovered from the
ordeal of being the victim of an internet scam, his life returns to normal
working at a five-star hotel selling VIP vacation club memberships to wealthy
clients, and being with the love of his life, Captain Rick. That is until he
finds Rick cheating on him with a woman. Feeling sad and lonely, Berkeley is
enticed by the prospects of high earnings and a jet setter lifestyle when he’s
approached by one of his clients to be a high-class escort.
Whilst he revels in being treated like a prince, he
has to accommodate some strange and unusual sexual requests, and before long
he’s caught up in a web of espionage between a transport conglomerate and a
client who is developing a futuristic technology that will change the future of
transport forever. Only Berkeley knows how he’s going to weave his way out of
his new-found problem.
Berkeley’s secret desire to have sex with Rick in a prison cell came true on more than one occasion, and that fulfilled both their fantasies. During the first few months of their relationship, the attraction and sex were strong and varied. They had sex in the nature reserve, the forest, on various beaches, a whole host of other public places, and life couldn’t have been any better for Berkeley.
He got his job back in the five-star hotel selling exclusive memberships to a private vacation club, where all the clients were treated like VIP’s and those with a Platinum membership were treated like royalty.
Berkeley suited the job perfectly because he had to deal with millionaire business entrepreneurs and highly paid corporate chiefs. If it wasn’t for his university education, high rolling business background, impeccable English accent, good looks and charm, he suspected they would’ve tried to dominate and intimidate him. But Berkeley knew how to handle himself and make them look like fools if they tried to slander him or the product he was selling.
He used his experience to control presentations and deal with any objections in a calm and professional manner. If they squirmed or complained about the price of the product, he used mild intimidation tactics on them. He implied they could afford the product, and asked why they didn’t feel they deserved to be treated like VIP’s or royalty when they took their holidays.
The basic pay was small, but the commissions were generous, so he managed to earn a good enough living to maintain a comfortable lifestyle with Rick.
Berkeley spent most of his time at Rick’s villa because it was more comfortable for them, but he continued to rent his apartment, so he had somewhere to go when he and Rick wanted a short break to have some down-time on their own. As much as they enjoyed practically living together, they were both sensible enough to recognise they both needed their own space at times.
Berkeley also thought it would be a good idea to keep his apartment for when his family and friends visited, because they’d have their own place to stay and wouldn’t be under each other’s feet twenty-four hours a day.
On the surface, everything appeared to be normal for the first few months, but although Rick was very discrete, Berkeley started to notice Rick had begun watching women. If they were in a restaurant and an attractive woman walked past, Berkeley noticed Rick looking up and having a sneaky peek. Similarly, if they were walking along the street and a stunning looking woman with curves and bumps in all the right places walked towards them, Rick’s focus transfixed on her, and Berkeley suspected it was because of the way she looked and moved her curvaceous, feminine body.
When it got to the point Rick actually started to pass comments to Berkeley about how attractive a woman was, he grew increasingly nervous Rick was reverting back to his former self—a heterosexual man who wanted to be with a woman again. It made Berkeley feel like he’d just been an experiment and temporary fad to allow Rick to live out his fantasies.
It struck Berkeley that now that Rick had lived them, he wanted to move on to the next experiment or fad.
Over the weeks, Berkeley grew increasingly suspicious Rick was having an affair with somebody, because he suggested more frequently they spent nights on their own.
After the third occasion, Berkeley decided he had to find out for himself what was going on.
The next time Rick suggested they have a night off, Berkeley took matters into his own hands and assumed the role of private investigator.
While he felt ashamed of himself, he left his apartment when it was dark, just after eight, and headed towards Rick’s villa. As he approached, he could see gentle lighting, so he knew Rick was at home.
Berkeley crouched down so he couldn’t be seen and made his way to the five-foot perimeter wall that had vertical metal bars above it to provide added security. Being careful to stay out of sight, he peered through the bars and looked into the lounge area. At first, he saw nobody, but after a few minutes he saw what he’d dreaded—a tall, leggy and busty blonde stood up from the sofa and headed towards the kitchen.
Berkeley’s heart sank, and he was overwhelmed with a feeling of deception that made him feel physically sick.
You bastard, Rick. How can you be doing this to me? I would much rather you’d just told me than do it behind my back. For Christ sake, you’re a fucking captain in the police force, so I thought you might have had more of a backbone than that.
When she didn’t return to the lounge after a couple of minutes, Berkeley assumed she was with Rick in the kitchen.
He toyed with the idea of going back to his apartment, pretending it wasn’t happening, and convincing himself she was just a work colleague he’d invited over for dinner so they could talk about a case they were working on or something. But the sickly feeling in his stomach told him that was unlikely to be the truth.
As his anger and frustration rose, he snuck around to the other side of the villa so he could peer into the kitchen. As painful as it would be to discover Rick was having an affair with a woman, he had to know if it was true or not.
As he took a quick look into the kitchen, his left hand instinctively flew to his mouth, and he shut his eyes. Tears welled up and streamed down his face as the sight of Rick embracing and kissing the bitch flashed through his mind.
That was it! He had all the evidence he needed to know she wasn’t a work colleague or just a friend—Rick was screwing a woman.
Berkeley is set
for life after providing his Royal Services and decides to travel to London to
visit his friends and family to cheer him up. There he has a raunchy chance
encounter with a stranger on a train who he meets again in unsuspected
circumstances. In between all the wild sexual antics, Leonard takes Berkeley
back in time to a spiritual world of religious communes, demons, exorcisms, and
Ouija boards that proves to be enlightening, unnerving, but most worryingly,
When Berkeley returns to Tenerife to discover his
gardener has had an accident, he enlists the help of a local beggar, a Moroccan
man called Mohammed, to service his garden and him. The sadness and mystery of
Mohammed’s past gradually unfolds, and when Berkeley tries to do the right
thing to help him, he is confronted with the reality of Mohammed’s dark and
Two different men spell double trouble for
Berkeley, but he has never shied away from a challenge—or a gorgeous man—and
he’s not about to now.
Berkeley was set for life. He had all the money he could possibly wish for after providing his Royal Services and being paid handsomely for bringing together the transport conglomerate with Sebastian involving a futuristic technology that would change the future of the transport industry forever. All he lacked in his life was a hobby, or pastime to fill up his days and keep his mind active.
After speaking to his sister Dawn on the phone, Berkeley toyed with the idea of going back to his hometown of London to see his family and friends who he hadn’t seen for a long time and missed. He’d also seen an advert on the internet promoting a three-day seminar on psychology at King’s College in London that he thought might be worth attending. He’d been thinking about dipping his toe into the subject, to find out a bit more about himself and how his experiences to date had affected him, or how they might affect him in the future. He thought it’d be a great way to find out if it was a subject he was really interested in or not.
After speaking to a few of his close friends, who were elated with the idea of seeing him, his mind was made up, and he booked his flight and made arrangements for the gardener to visit during his stay to care for the gardens in his villa and clean the swimming pool.
When Berkeley arrived at Gatwick airport, he was slightly dazed and sad, as the memories of when he’d visited London to provide his services for Frederick and the trauma that followed flashed through his mind. He wanted to kick himself for being so foolish and almost falling for Frederick when in reality he had an ulterior motive and mission in mind. As he waited for his luggage, flashbacks of being held hostage in the house with the burly and aggressive bodyguard and CEO of the transport conglomerate plagued his mind, so he did his best to focus on the purpose of his visit and think about his family and friends.
Berkeley was relieved when the conveyor belt started moving and the cases started emerging, as it provided him with another distraction from his nightmarish thoughts. Much to his surprise, but to his secret relief, his suitcase was the fourth to appear, so he knew he wouldn’t have to hang around in baggage reclaim for long and could quickly make his way through customs. The sooner he got to see his sister the better, so he could put his awful thoughts and memories behind him.
Although his Spanish mobile worked, he had no Wi-Fi coverage, so he couldn’t use Whatsapp or make a call. Thankfully, Dawn sent him a message via messenger saying they would meet him at the pick-up point. Not knowing where the pick-up point was, Berkeley asked one of the customs officers where it was, and before telling him, he asked Berkeley where he’d come from. When Berkeley told him he’d arrived from Tenerife, the customs officer politely asked Berkeley if he could check his bags. Given Berkeley had nothing to hide, he agreed without any resistance. Once the customs officer saw that Berkeley didn’t have a suitcase full of cheap cigarettes, he explained where the pick-up point was and let him pass through customs.
Even though he’d been given directions to the pick-up point when he arrived, Dawn wasn’t there, so he sent her a message telling her that he was there waiting for her. She sent a message back saying they were on the fifth floor of the car park. Berkeley took the lift to the fifth floor, but when he came out of the lift, there was still no sign of Dawn. Confused, he sent Dawn another message. She responded saying they were in the blue car park. Berkeley had no idea what car park he was in, so he approached what looked like a chauffeur waiting for a client in a black BMW to ask where he was and where the blue car park was. He explained that Berkeley was in the orange car park and would have to go back down to the second floor and pass through the red car park before he reached the blue car park.
Berkeley followed his instructions, and as he was walking through the red car park, he wished he’d just arranged for his sister to meet him in a chauffeur driven car.
When he finally arrived at the fifth floor of the blue car park, he was relieved to see that his sister, along with his nephew, Jason, and great-niece, Leah, were waiting for him.
Dawn welcomed him with open arms and gave him a brotherly hug. During the ride back to East London, Berkeley and Dawn sat in the back of the car and shared a lengthy conversation about what had happened to Berkeley while he was working for Royal Service. Berkeley had kept her informed through regular telephone conversations, but Berkeley had held back telling her about being lured into a trap, beaten, and having to resort to using Sebastian’s new transport technology to escape being held hostage and possibly being tortured more.
Dawn grabbed hold of Berkeley’s forearm and gasped. “I’m bloody glad you didn’t tell me that when we spoke on the phone. I’d have gone to the bloody house with the kids and a few other heavies and beaten the crap out of them! In fact, I would have been so bloody annoyed, I probably wouldn’t have needed any help because I’d have taken a bloody hammer with me and nailed them both to the frigging wall.”
Berkeley laughed out loud and took Dawn’s hand. “You do make me laugh so much. The funny thing is, I know you would have.”
“Yeah. I’d have made a lovely piece of artwork out of the two of them.”
Two things are
still plaguing Berkeley—the unexplained and strange disappearance of Leonard,
and the possible outcome of Mohammed’s retrial for a manslaughter charge. They
say bad things always come in threes, and in Berkeley’s case that belief is no
exception. When Berkeley gets a call from one of his best friends from London,
Paul, his dose of bad karma is completed when he discovers Paul’s younger
brother, Kenny, has been killed in a tragic car accident. Berkeley does his
best to pacify Paul and stop him from going through with his ludicrous plan. In
exchange, Berkeley has to agree to go back to London for the Trade reunion
party. Berkeley and Paul have the time of their lives, but when dawn breaks and
the party’s over, all hell breaks loose.
Berkeley was woken by the sound of the doorbell ringing loudly. He looked at the clock and cursed himself for oversleeping and not being up to greet Mohammed and let him in when he arrived. He crawled out of bed and grabbed his dressing gown hanging on the back of the bathroom door. Once he’d put it on, he hurriedly made his way to the front door. As he walked, the doorbell rang again. He called out to who he assumed was Mohammed to tell him he was on his way. As he clumsily made his way to the door, he reminded himself it might be a good idea to give Mohammed a key for the back-entrance gate. That way he’d be able to let himself in without disturbing Berkeley if he’d had a late night. Or on that occasion, a rough night—one that included thinking about the lack of response from Leonard, the fear that Tim’s ghost hadn’t passed over to the other world and could kill Leonard, and the prospects of Mohammed’s retrial.
Reminding himself Mohammed had to go on trial again for a manslaughter charge prompted Berkeley to think a key to the back gate would be fine, but keys to the house were strictly off limits. Even though Berkeley was almost a hundred percent certain Mohammed couldn’t have been capable of deliberately taking somebody else’s life, he still needed more reassurances he wouldn’t attack him or somebody else if he got into an argument.
Berkeley opened the door and found Mohammed leaning against the door frame. He was holding his head in his left hand and seemingly stabilising himself with his right hand.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Mohammed? You look dreadful.”
Mohammed made an attempt to prop himself up and staggered forward. “I no feel good. I drinking with my friends last night.”
“Right! In that case, I suggest you go home and put yourself back to bed, just as I’m going to do. I can’t believe you’ve turned up here in this state. I pay you to work, not turn up at my doorstep drunk, or hungover.”
“No. I work. Is okay.”
Berkeley put his hand out and gently tried to ease Mohammed back out the door. “You wait outside and I’ll call you a taxi on my account so you won’t have to pay. Mohammed, I really don’t want to see you in this state again, and you’re certainly in no fit state to work right now. Go home, and if you’re better tomorrow, you can come back to work. Please don’t ever turn up at my house in this state again. Is that understood? If you do, it’ll be the last time.”
“I sorry, Berkeley. My friends make me drink. Now I feel bad.”
“Well, go home and sleep it off.”
“You give me something to eat. I hungry.”
“No, I’m sorry, Mohammed. I’m not letting you in here like that, so go home and eat something when you wake up.”
Mohammed turned around and staggered toward the gate waving his arms. “I see you tomorrow.”
Berkeley shut the door and called his taxi company. He explained his friend was a bit worse for wear, but told them he’d pay them double if the driver helped Mohammed and made sure he got to his place safely.
Berkeley looked out the window and saw Mohammed sat on the floor outside his villa. He dreaded to think what the neighbours were going to think, but his main priority was Mohammed made it home safely.
After a few minutes, Berkeley saw the taxi pull up outside his villa. The taxi driver got out the car and shook his head. When Berkeley thought he was going to turn down the fare, he quickly ran to the door, opened it and ran outside. “Please, he’s a little bit tired and hungover, but apart from that, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
“Yeah, well if he’s sick in my bloody car, you’ll be paying for it to be cleaned up!”
“Hey, I don’t think you need to worry about that. He hasn’t eaten anything, and I’m sure if he were going to be sick, he’d have been sick by now.”
“Well, I hope you’re right. If I lose a day’s money because of this clown throwing up in my car, I’ll be back to see you.”
“That’s fine. Look, I’ll help you get him to his feet, and I’m sure once he’s in the car he’ll be fine. He just needs to be taken home. I’m not even sure how he got here in the first place, to be honest, but if he made it here okay I’m sure he’ll make it back home just fine. Wait here a minute—I’ll be right back.”
Berkeley ran into his villa, grabbed his wallet from the side cabinet, took out a fifty euro note and ran back outside. “Here, look, take this, and I hope it makes up for your inconvenience.”
“Well, I’m sure that’ll help, but if you’ve got a plastic bag or something, just in case he’s sick, that’d be great.”
“Stay there! Coming right up.”
Berkeley ran to the kitchen, grabbed the role of bin bags from under the sink and ran back outside. “Okay, take these and lay them on the seats and floor. That should do the trick.” Berkeley grabbed Mohammed and shook him. “Mohammed, do you feel sick?”
“No. I no sick. Very tired only.”
Berkeley tore off one of the bin bags from the role and handed it to Mohammed. “Listen to me very carefully, Mohammed. If you feel sick, try to be sick in this.”
“I no feel sick, but okay. I see you tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow if you feel well enough. And make sure you eat something when you get up. Do you have food at home?”
“Yes. I have food. With the money you pay me, I have food.”
Paul are excited about attending their first gay rodeo in Denver, Colorado.
Even after a tiring fourteen-hour trip from London, the bright lights and
prospect of meeting some horny cowboys instinctively draws them to Lower
Downtown, where things aren’t exactly what Berkeley had expected. Whilst Paul
revels in throwing himself at every available man in any bar or at any rodeo
event, Berkeley has different expectations. Beyond his wildest hopes and
dreams, Berkeley meets Nantan, a Native American, who sweeps Berkeley off his
feet. But Berkeley discovers there is a lot more to Nantan than meets the eye.
The sound of the captain’s voice announcing they’d be landing at Denver International airport in approximately twenty-five minutes stirred Berkeley from his shallow sleep. He stretched his arms and legs trying to bring his body back to life after a fourteen-hour flight from London. Berkeley shook his head to bring himself back to his senses and looked at his watch. When he saw it was just gone six in the afternoon, he was relieved they’d be arriving on schedule. He looked to his left, where one of his best friends, Paul, who he affectionately called Blanche, was sat next to him and still sound asleep. Berkeley chuckled when he saw a small stream of dribble running from the corner of Paul’s mouth and imagined Paul was already fantasising about all the horny cowboys they were going to meet at the thirty-fifth annual Rocky Mountain Gay Rodeo—the primary focus of their visit to Colorado.
When Paul had suggested the idea, Berkeley had his reservations about travelling so far just to be surrounded by a bunch of horny cowboys prancing around in their leather chaps, showing off their arses or bulges. But Paul had been so excited about the prospect, Berkeley found it hard to refuse, especially given Paul had endured a few difficult months dealing with the loss of his younger brother in a tragic car accident and the traumatic court case that followed.
Berkeley looked out of the small window, and his spirits lifted when he saw the plethora of colour that greeted his eyes. The sun was setting, and it cast dark shadows on parts of the reddish coloured mountains, making them look brown. Yet it illuminated other parts, especially the peaks, giving them a vibrant orange tinge that warmed Berkeley’s heart. As the plane descended, the lakes, rivers, forests and meadows became more visible, and the summer inspired mixture of reds, browns, blues, greens, and violet looked like a work of art carefully and lovingly crafted by Monet. It gave Berkeley some hope they might be able to enjoy the local scenery and culture, rather than spending every day surrounded by horny hunks who were filled to the brim with testosterone.
Berkeley heard Paul yawn out loud and turned to him. “Evening, sleeping beauty.”
“Oh, very funny. Have I been asleep for long?”
“I don’t know, I’ve not long woke up myself, but you fell asleep before me, so it must have been at least two hours.”
“Well, I suppose that’s better than nothing. How much longer before we land?”
“In about twenty minutes.”
“That’s great. I can’t wait to get off this frigging plane and get to our hotel so we can freshen up, have something to eat, and hit the nightlife!”
“You’re kidding, right? You want to go out after spending fourteen hours travelling?”
“Well, babe, we’re only here for ten days, so we gotta make the most of it while we can, and it would be so selfish of us to deprive all the butch, burly, hung cowboys of our presence and bodies.”
Berkeley raised his eyebrows and frowned. “You’re just a dirty little harlot who has a one-track mind. Let’s see how we feel once we’ve had a shower and something to eat.”
“And a few drinks!”
Berkeley laughed out loud and raised his hand in the air so Paul could give him a high-five. “Now you’re talking. I think that’s just what we need to get us in the mood.”
Once they’d collected their luggage, Berkeley and Paul left the airport and walked toward the front of the taxi rank. The driver kindly put their suitcases in the trunk, and they both took their seats in the back of the car.
As they drove past the ever-changing landscape, Berkeley admired the enormity and vastness of the mountain ranges in the distance. He was filled with a sense of peace and tranquillity by the band of orange that stretched across the horizon, giving the whole place a magical and almost mystical feel.
Berkeley and Paul sat in silence as they took in as much as they could of the strange but captivating scenery. The only time they spoke was when one of them spotted something they wanted to point out to the other.
Within thirty minutes, they arrived at the Denver Marriot West hotel which looked out of place stuck in the middle of an arid desert. The distant skyline of Denver city, with its tall office and apartment blocks, momentarily caught Berkeley’s attention. As they got out of the taxi and waited for their suitcases, Berkeley tapped Paul on the arm and pointed at the cluster of buildings and bright lights that twinkled against the already dark sky.
Paul looked at Berkeley with a menacing grin. “That’s where we’re headed tonight. The bright lights and gay bars are calling me!”
Berkeley shook his head in disbelief. “Oh my word, I think we’re both going to need a holiday when we get home, I don’t know about now.”
“Oh, come on, love, get into the spirit of things. We’re bad-arse Denver chicks now, and we gotta show those Denver boys what us London girls are made of.”
“Hum, well I’d like to say sugar and spice and all things nice, but in your case, I know that’s definitely not true.”
Paul screeched with laughter and grabbed hold of Berkeley’s forearm. “No, love, but my man-pussy is really sweet and juicy.”
“Oh, please, shut up. That is way too much information, thank you.”
“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, babe.”
“Right, grab your suitcase and let’s check-in. After a quick shower, we need to get something to eat. I’m starving.”
“That sounds like a plan, babe. Shall we meet in the bar once we’re ready? We can have a quick drink and ask the bar attendant where we can get something nice to eat.”
While Berkeley is waiting at Gatwick airport for his transfer flight from Denver International airport to Tenerife, he convinces himself the dream he’d had on the plane was more than just a dream. Battling against rational thoughts and raw emotions, Berkeley follows his gut instincts in search of the Native American, Nantan. Curious and keen to understand more about Nantan’s life as a wolf, Berkeley gets a lot closer than he expected to finding out what it’s really like. Love conquers all as Berkeley escapes a close encounter with death that cements his future with Nantan.
Berkeley watched the second hand ticking on the large white clock hanging on the wall ten yards in front of him as he sat in a bar at Gatwick airport. He willed the minute hand on so he could board his transfer flight from Denver International airport to Tenerife, but it didn’t move. Berkeley had contemplated spending a few days in London with his friend, Paul, after their holiday in Denver to break up the journey so he wouldn’t be travelling for over twenty hours. But when he’d booked his return flight, he thought he’d be keen to get back home to his comfortable villa and see his friends, Jorge and Aurelio. He’d assumed he would want to tell them all about his exciting adventures and experiences at the thirty-fifth annual Rocky Mountain Gay Rodeo. He’d also suspected if he stayed in London for a few days, Paul would’ve wanted to carry on partying, and Berkeley didn’t think he’d have the energy after spending ten days in Denver with him.
Berkeley was feeling fatigued after the eleven-hour flight from Denver to the United Kingdom, and now he regretted not breaking his journey up by staying in London for a few days. It was too late, though, because his connecting flight to Tenerife was due to leave in an hour. He looked at the clock again, and once again, willed the minute hand to speed up so he could board the plane and get the journey over and done with. He reconciled himself by thinking it was only a four-hour flight, and he was sure after a few gin and tonics he’d sleep during most of the flight.
After what seemed like ten minutes, Berkeley looked at the clock and was disappointed to see only a few minutes had passed. He tapped his fingers rapidly on the table top and contemplated changing his flight so he could stay in London for a few days.
Before they’d said their emotional farewells, Paul had done his best to convince Berkeley to change his transfer flight, but Berkeley had been adamant he just wanted to get home so he could rest and relax. Their ten-day holiday had been very complete and tiring with all the excursions, the two days at the rodeo and almost continuous nights out drinking in gay bars and clubs.
As Berkeley reflected on all the good times they’d had, his mind turned to the dream he’d had on the plane travelling from Denver to the United Kingdom—the dream that had seemed so real and lifelike about meeting Nantan. He was a handsome Native American man whose ancestors and family had been cursed by an evil Shaman, forcing them to live their lives as wolves who had the ability to revert back to their human form, but not on a permanent basis.
The more Berkeley thought about the dream, the more animated he became about the thought of sharing that experience with Nantan. He closed his eyes momentarily and visualised Nantan’s face, his long flowing dark hair and sculptured dark-skinned chest. His heart pounded when he recalled how they’d made sweet and passionate love on the shore of Lake Loveland and he’d been overwhelmed with emotion and joy.
Berkeley opened his eyes and shook his head. What was he thinking? Surely it must have just been a dream? Then Berkeley reminded himself that Paul had told him on the plane he’d disappeared on the last few nights at around nine or ten. Why couldn’t he remember doing that, or what he’d done when he’d disappeared?
After taking a sip of his drink, Berkeley stared down into his glass looking at the transparent liquid that splashed around and the two ice cubes that clanked against the side. Staring, he prayed he’d have a flashback about what he’d got up to the nights he’d left Paul early.
The shaking in Berkeley’s hand started to subside, but the gin and tonic still rocked from side to side, creating tiny ripples. It was then Berkeley had a vague recollection of sitting by the side of a lake and watching tiny ripples lapping against the shoreline. The vision of looking out at a dense forest beyond the lake flashed through Berkeley’s mind. Images of Nantan sat next to him became clearer, and Berkeley quickly placed his drink on the table in front of him.
Berkeley covered his eyes with his hands and blew out air heavily. He couldn’t work out whether he was hallucinating after the long and tiring flight, or if he was getting his memory back. Picking the drink back up, Berkeley took a slug and sat back in his chair.
Confused and uncertain of his state of mind, Berkeley closed his eyes and took himself back to the night when he’d left the rodeo early. He’d gone back to the hotel, got a drink from the bar, and sat outside in the fireside lounge patio. He recalled how he’d sat and gazed up at the night sky that sparkled brightly with thousands of stars. He visualised the flickering flames in the centre of the terrace that swayed and danced with the warm evening breeze. He remembered lying on the sofa so he could gaze up at the sky and how he’d shut his eyes to take a mental snapshot of his surroundings—the sounds, the smells, and the sights.
That was when Berkeley’s memory came back to him. While he’d had his eyes shut, one of his other senses had been brought to life—touch. When he’d felt something wet and warm licking his face, he’d thought Paul had returned to the hotel early and was playing a practical joke on him.
spirits are dampened when he opens his world up to three relative strangers and
is confronted with a series of macabre happenings. When things get out of hand,
Berkeley turns to his ex-partner, Captain Rick, to help unravel the mystery of
what’s happening and why. Berkeley’s gardener, Rene, a Santeria Priest, is the
obvious suspect. But is he too obvious and being set-up? Jacob, an author, has
the creative mind to develop and execute such a cunning and sophisticated plan.
Nantan has inside knowledge and the opportunity. With another few suspects
thrown into the pot, Berkeley and Rick have their work cut out before time runs
out and death strikes again.
The automatic exit doors at Reina Sofia airport, Tenerife, opened, and Berkeley and Nantan were greeted by an invisible wall of heat which stopped them in their tracks. Having spent so many hours on a plane travelling from Denver to London and then London to Tenerife, they were relieved to be in the open air. But the intense summer sun in Tenerife was suffocating and a complete contrast to the air-conditioned environments they’d spent the past twenty hours in. Berkeley looked across at Nantan and smiled. He was relieved that he was back at home in Tenerife and that nothing strange had happened to either of them during their flights.
Nantan smiled and winked at Berkeley, put a reassuring arm around his shoulder, and pecked him on his temple. Berkeley blew him a kiss, grabbed the handle of his suitcase and started walking toward the taxi rank.
When they reached it, there was a long line of white taxis waiting for their next fare. The taxi driver at the front of the queue opened the rear doors of his Mercedes and beckoned them to get in with his hand. The driver grabbed the handles of the suitcases Berkeley and Nantan had left on the pavement and put them in the boot of the car. When the driver was sat in the front seat, Berkeley asked him to take them to Palm Mar. The driver nodded and started to drive.
They reached the motorway, and the hazy hills and mountains to their left and the seemingly never-ending Atlantic Ocean to their right were both visible. Nantan took hold of Berkeley’s hand and looked at him with wide eyes and a beaming smile. That alone was enough to give him reassurances that Nantan had no regrets leaving Loveland to spend some time with him in Tenerife, to discover if their relationship would work out.
As they passed El Medano beach, Berkeley pointed at the red mountain to their left that gently sloped down and disappeared into the sea. He explained the beach was immense and one of Tenerife’s natural beauty spots. Nantan squeezed Berkeley’s hand and said he’d love to go there one day, so they could take a romantic walk and paddle in the sea. Berkeley promised to take him and suggested he might even be able to have a nice run there if they stayed until early evening when it was a bit cooler and there were fewer people around. Nantan nodded enthusiastically.
Nantan stared out the window and observed the passing landscape. He turned to Berkeley and blew out air. “Wow, this place is awesome, and not so different from Denver, with all the mountains and arid landscape. Already it’s beginning to feel like home away from home.”
Berkeley squeezed Nantan’s hand and blew him a kiss. “Aww, I’m so pleased your initial impression is a good one. I’m sure after a few days, once you’ve settled in a bit, you’ll love it.”
“Oh, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m sure I will. And to be right by the sea is amazing. We’ve got lakes in Loveland, but looking at the sea fills you with such a sense of freedom and peace. I can’t wait to see where you live. You said it was close to the sea, right?”
Berkeley nodded and smiled. “Yep, it sure is. The sea’s only a few hundred yards away, and you can see it from the upper terrace, so you can look at it whenever you want.”
“Oh wow. That’s awesome. How much farther is it?”
“Only another ten minutes or so, and then we’ll be there. If you fancy it, we can have a nice drink and then a dip in the pool.”
Nantan looked at Berkeley, grinned and nodded. “Oh yes. After all that time we’ve spent on flights, I could really do with a good stretch and a dip to wake myself up.”
“Okay, well that’s sorted then.”
Sensing Nantan was content looking at the landscape and soaking up as many of the views as he could, Berkeley reflected on how his life had turned into an assault course of dramas, deceit, heartache, and new love that he’d found when he’d least expected it and in the strangest of circumstances. As he looked at the changing landscape, he reminded himself of all the action, adventures, romances, and new experiences he’d enjoyed during his life journey. Not to mention his new-found wealth and love.
Berkeley looked out the window at the clear blue sky and was overcome with a sense of appreciation, self-fulfilment and tranquillity when he saw a flock of birds flying freely and floating effortlessly on the warm air currents. Having Nantan beside him made his life feel complete, and he imagined he was experiencing the same sense of freedom a white dove must have felt when they were flying around without a care in the world.
The taxi pulled up outside Berkeley’s villa. He looked at his watch, and it was just after five—the perfect time to have a drink and make the most of the afternoon sun and pool. Nantan looked at Berkeley with widened eyes, blew out air and nodded his head.
Nantan helped the taxi driver get the suitcases out the trunk. When Berkeley opened the gate, he immediately noticed all the plants and trees looked pristine and well taken care of, and he was pleased his new gardener, Rene, had taken good care of the place in his absence.
Berkeley walked through the front door and was greeted by the light, lingering smell of cleaning products. As he walked into the lounge, he looked around, and the place was spotless.
Nantan put the suitcases down on the floor in the lounge, walked toward Berkeley, and embraced him. “Well, nookoox, we’ve finally made it to your place, and what a beautiful place it is. Come on, show me around so I can see the rest of it.”
Let’s start with the basics. What would you like people to know about you?
In brief, I am fifty-two. I was born and raised in London and worked as a successful management consultant until I was 35. Then I decided to move to Tenerife (one of the Canary Islands, which are a part of Spain) to pursue a relationship. I gave up my career, sold everything I owned in London in the hope that I’d found true love. BUT, it went horribly wrong. Seventeen years later I still live here and I have found a new prince charming, so yeah, it didn’t go that horribly wrong. Now comes the really tough part for me. I lost both my parents when I was 27 to cancer, so it’s been me and my older sister supporting each other from thereon in. Thankfully, we have a very loving relationship so life goes on and my memories of my parents will never die. If you really want to know me, then read my bookSun, Sea and a Contemporary Art Gallery. It is basically my memoirs, but a literary agent recommended that I rewrite it in third person, which I did. The main character is Berkeley and he took on a life of his own. Due to popular demand, I wrote another seven books featuring Berkeley. Now I’m in a really good place.
You made an incredible sacrifice for love! That took a lot of courage. I think many people fall in love when it’s easy. Few are willing to make sacrifices to pursue it.
Is that why you write romance?
I write romance because I am a die-hard romantic. I have had a lot of relationships, fallen in love, had my heart broken more times than I care to mention, but for me, romance will never die. I also love to write books about how I wish a romance I’ve had should have gone. I also use it as a platform to vent my frustration. I live with my ex, but the love and bond between us is stronger than ever, so I’ve got my prince charming/knight in shining armour and I wouldn’t give him up for anybody. I found true love, even if he is a pain in the, ahem, at times!
Born and raised in London, Lee worked as a successful senior management consultant before moving to Tenerife to pursue a more fulfilling life and to focus on his writing.
For Lee, the writing process is all about when the mind and the fingers connect. He plans stories in his head, but when the fingers take over, something else comes out…but invariably, he is happy that he let his fingers do the talking.
He works with an amazing team at eXtasy/Divine books who inspire and encourage his writing. He calls Jay Austin, the Chief Editor in Charge, Laura McNellis, his editor and Carmen Waters, his artist, THE DREAM TEAM. No further explanation required…