Going Up! And Christmas wishes :-)

*smishes*  Thanks to all of you who commented on the last post!  I completely forgot to mention some of those movies, and I love them so much!  A Christmas Story– we watch that every year, and that’s just one!  So, anyone who commented yesterday and wants some Rusty Keychains, give me a holler– I’ll set you up after Christmas.

And, in the Christmas countdown, here’s where we stand:

Have humiliated Zoomboy by making sure at least 2000 people saw the picture of him screaming on Santa’s lap.

Have had our picture taken– wearing bright Christmas red– on the court of the Sacramento Kings.

Have bought gift we hadn’t planned on but was perfect.

Have eaten other people’s Christmas cookies (THANK you Laura Adriana and Berry Jello) until I feel like a fatball of Christmas joy.

Have injured myself by falling spectacularly in a friend’s living room.  (Sorry, Berry Jello!  I’m still a little embarrassed.)

Have managed to go grocery shopping.  Sounds like a small thing, but it took TWO DAYS of good intentions and Mate’s company to get it done.

Have managed to hug the kids.  They’re really excited about Christmas.


Have sat up from a sound nap and said, “OMG– DID I SEND RHYS FORD A CHRISTMAS CARD?”

Have wondered if, like Clarence the Angel, I am doomed to have the IQ of a rabbit for the rest of my life.

Have wrapped NO PRESENTS.  Repeat– NO PRESENTS.

Have called mom to ask what I should be bringing for Christmas dinner.  Have been told “Lasagna, didn’t your Mate and two oldest Spawn tell you?”

Have yelled at Mate and Spawn ferociously.  LASAGNA?  Deserved a mention, you think?

Have wrapped NO PRESENTS.  Repeat– NO PRESENTS.

Have watched Muppet Christmas Carol for the third time.

Am listening to It’s a Wonderful Life now.

Heh heh… have JUST watched oldest son wander around my office space– HOME OF SIX ZILLION WRITING UTENSILS, asking for a pen.

Have strained my calf again, jerking trying to get him a pen.

Have revisited rabbit IQ theory again.

Have ALMOST knitted everything.

Have realized it’s time to get off the computer and get my shit together.

Have wished all of you folks a happy solstice, a Merry Christmas, and a lovely yule.


Okay guys– Going Up! Will be out on Christmas Day.  It’s a very short novella, but the idea is, it’s like a little Christmas aperitif, a dollop of whipped cream on your pumpkin pie, gravy on the mashed potatoes.  I’ll post the buy link here, and the blurb and the excerpt, because, well, it’s adorable.  It’s designed to make you happy– not Christmas centric, perhaps, but Christmassy in spirit.  Let’s just say the holiday comes up often enough to put you in the mood.  And of course, there’s the GORGEOUS color, which makes me so proud.

Also– if you scroll WAY down, you’ll see the cover reveal and pre-buy link for Behind the Curtain.  It’s going to be out a little earlier than I’d thought, and I thought I’d show it to you now 🙂


Available at Dreamspinner Press

Available at All Romance e-Book

Every dreary day, Zach Driscoll takes the elevator from the penthouse apartment of his father’s building to his coldly charmed life where being a union lawyer instead of a corporate lawyer is an act of rebellion. Every day, that is, until the day the elevator breaks and Sean Mallory practically runs into his arms. 

Substitute teacher Sean Mallory is everything Zach is not—poor, happy, and goofily charming. With a disarming smile and a penchant for drama, Sean laughs his way into Zach’s heart one elevator ride at a time. Zach would love to get to know Sean better, but first he needs the courage to leave his ivory tower and face a relationship that doesn’t end at the “Ding!”


Ground Floor

ONCE UPON a time, there was a prince who lived in a tower. He had been born to a king and a queen in the kingdom of San Francisco, and he was raised by nannies and boarding schools. He was a good child. He did everything he was told. He never questioned his world, and his rebellions, on the whole, were very, very small.

He worked hard, earned his law degree, and made a life defending the weak and downtrodden, while he enjoyed a privileged life atop the tallest tower of the kingdom.

But although there was no snow in his kingdom, there were chilly bay breezes, and they left his heart cold, oh, so very cold….

ZACH DRISCOLL sipped his champagne and looked around him. His parents’ annual Christmas party seemed to be in full swing: the chandelier was dusted, the galleria ballroom glittered with tasteful silver decorations, and his secretary, Leah, was flirting with the up-and-coming young president of the local chamber of commerce.

Fortunately for Leah’s fun, she didn’t know he was gay.

Zach knew Angelo Fitzsimmons was gay—but Angelo didn’t know Zach knew. It was a sad fact that Zach owed pretty much every decent sexual encounter he’d ever had to a flier on “escort services” that Angelo had left in a bathroom stall when Zach was still in college.

Zach figured that if the firm was discreet enough for Angelo with his budding political career, it was discreet enough for a union lawyer who only showed up to these things for his parents.

Oh, and speaking of….

“She’s charming, Zach. It’s about time you settled down and brought a date to one of our parties.”

“Hi, Mother,” he said, pursing his lips in a really horrible approximation of a smile. “We’re not dating. She’s my secretary—she does a really good job. I figured she deserved a perk.”

“So you brought your secretary to a fundraiser?” His mother…. God. She looked forty, was closer to sixty-five, and could ooze disdain with a few choice words. Right now, she needed a little sponging off at the edges.

Zach looked over at Leah, who was wearing a red crushed-velveteen dress that left one shoulder bare and sported gold spangles up the split sides. Her dusky skin and sturdy, wide-hipped body looked lush and sensual under that textured fabric, and he only wished he could appreciate that. She’d dyed her hair Christmas red to match, worn gold bangles in her updo, and was currently trying to teach Angelo the Harlem shuffle.

“Yes,” he said, smiling a little. He didn’t joke with Leah, or get too personal with her, but he sure did admire the hell out of her. She’d started off the job wearing black suits and black shoes, and had kept her normally straight black hair cut short and practical. In the past three years since he’d started the firm and hired five more lawyers and three more paralegals, she had, one tiny bit at a time, let little bits of the real Leah shine through.

First it was fuchsia or lime-colored shirts under her business suit. Then it was fantastic shoes to match the shirts.

Then it was suits to match the shoes.

Then it was hair to match the whole shebang.

And while her wardrobe expanded, her sarcasm also began to expand in depth, breadth, and sheer breathtaking scope. “What, you didn’t finish that file before it’s due, Mr. Driscoll? I’m suspecting you stopped to take a crap sometime this weekend—shame on you!”

Zach hadn’t known how to respond at first. He’d never been proficient in sarcasm, or in any of the more salient social skills such as conversation, eye contact, or generally wanting to get to know his fellow human beings. He’d simply grunted and walked into his office, wondering what to say.

But over the last six months, that sarcasm had started to feel like overtures of friendship. When he’d gotten the invitation to the party stressing the need for a plus-one, he told Leah he’d spring for the dress, and, well, there they were.

“Do you think that’s appropriate?” his mother asked, not smiling at all, and Zach watched Angelo actually grace Leah with a real smile, one that didn’t seem as constipated and as cramped as Zach felt most of the time.

“I think something needed to happen,” he said quietly. “And she’s having a lovely time.”

Some flashes went off, and Zach figured that moment exhausted his family time for the rest of the year as his mother stood up and left. Zach watched Leah dance like she was Cinderfuckingella (her word, when he’d given her the credit card) and then he looked up into the windows that surrounded the high ceiling of the ballroom. It was raining, and in the cutting silver light from the galleria, the rain looked like slivers of crystal. Like wishing stars.

I wish a prince would rescue me, he thought, half in whimsy and half in despair. Silly wish, right? His parents were rich, and he was a lawyer. Wasn’t he the prince? Okay, then. I wish a knight would rescue the prince in the tower.

In the distance he heard Leah laugh like a kid in a playground, and he went to tell her that he’d leave her the town car and take a cab home. He knew enough about fairy tales to know that the knight in shining armor never really did show up at the ball.

ZACH LIVED in the penthouse because his dad owned the building. It was that easy.

Of course, law school at Stanford hadn’t been that easy, establishing his own practice hadn’t been easy, and keeping his relationships to the guys from the escort service wasn’t particularly easy on him either.

But Zach had always been good at putting a slick face on things.

He got up in the morning and put on his wool suit—and in San Francisco, it was always a wool suit—with his bright patent leather shoes and his crispy starched collars and hundred-dollar ties. He shaved and slicked back his dark hair, made sure his eyebrows were tweezed and his face was moisturized, and generally ensured he looked and smelled like a man who could protect your future.

He’d been the same way as a kid, except he hadn’t had to tweeze his eyebrows.

When he was a kid, his father and mother had insisted on hygiene, and so had his nannies, but the resulting behaviors were neat, orderly habits of mind and he wasn’t going to discard them just because there was a sort of echoing, vaultlike quality to all of his childhood memories.

And he figured, after that childhood, living in the nice penthouse of Driscoll Towers in the middle of downtown was a perk. He’d take what he could get. Hiding his sex life from his parents wasn’t such a big price to pay, and really? They lived in a mansion down on the peninsula, so about an hour of commute time separated them from him and the guy he’d paid to leave before midnight. Not that there were that many of those, but a guy had to be touched, right? That wasn’t so bad, to be touched?

But certainly not in an express elevator in the middle of a soulless January.

Which was currently breaking down. The cab lurched to a halt between the nineteenth and twentieth floor, and then, just as Zach was hitting the button for maintenance, it dropped half a floor and the doors opened.

Zach got out of the elevator on the nineteenth floor, absolutely bemused. He didn’t even know the express elevator could open in this part of the complex. He got out and turned around, seeing there was a bank of elevator doors instead of just the one like he was used to. He thought, Hunh? but hit the button to the hopefully working elevator, and got in when the doors opened.

The elevator stopped at the fifteenth floor, to let in a teenage girl in bright-pink spandex with a matching iPod who ignored him, and then at the fourteenth floor, where the doors opened and then started to shut again.

“Wait! Wait! I didn’t think it was going to open so soon!” The guy was running, and Zach was in the back corner behind the teenager, so he couldn’t stop the doors either. The kid—he looked like a kid—who stopped the doors and opened them again, wore cowboy boots and leather chaps and a pink-striped oxford shirt and a really revoltingly large fake-Stetson hat. He had kind of a long neck, a really prominent jaw, a smattering of freckles still on his cheeks, and teeth that barely escaped being bucked.

And curly yellow-brown hair.

And really blue eyes.

And not an ounce of embarrassment for skating in through the door at the last minute, stumbling past the girl and pitching into Zach’s arms.

“Sorry ’bout that!” he burbled, straightening himself and then straightening his hat. He arranged a scuffed leather satchel over his hip, and got a tighter hold on the peacoat he’d obviously brought to ward against the cold San Francisco morning. The doors were still open, because sometimes they did that, and the staff complained about it going slow and the tenants said things about it being haunted by the ghost of the bachelor who had died on the twenty-second floor and who had been so lonely his cat had eaten his face.

Zach pretended none of that was actually happening because even though he didn’t own a cat, he didn’t want to think of his face being eaten. So he didn’t think about his face being eaten. He just scooted around the teenaged girl, leaned forward and pressed the “close” key, and mumbled, “No problem” so the boy didn’t think it was totally okay to go rocketing into a stranger’s arms.

“Yeah, well, I’m still sorry,” the kid said, tilting his hat up. Zach had no choice. He looked up from the control board into those plasma-blue eyes, and the kid grinned. He had the slightest space between his teeth, which made Zach think that maybe his parents hadn’t had good health insurance, and that made him feel bad.

All his own teeth were capped, because six years of braces hadn’t been enough and his smile had been… well, it was perfect now, and that’s what mattered.

“That’s okay,” he said, a little more clearly, and he quirked his lips up for good measure. “Uhm, going on a round-up?”

The guy’s face split into a grin. “Substitute teaching in seventh grade. They didn’t give me a cattle prod so I figured this would have to do.”

“That’s… you do that voluntarily?” The thought of facing a battalion of sugar-crazed grunion made Zach’s well-worked abdomen muscles roll tightly. “You don’t look old enough to be in college!”

He laughed. Not a polite “you just insulted me so I’m brushing this off” laugh, but a full-stomached laugh, like what Zach had just said was really fucking funny.

“I’m twenty-six!”


The elevator opened into the lobby then, and Zach watched the boy—guy, man, crap—stride off into the shiny, fogless day, struggling into his battered peacoat as he went.

Zach followed him, feeling bemused. He didn’t see which way the guy turned, and so he went his usual right, because it was twelve blocks to his office building and he walked it every day, wielding his briefcase like a weapon against the hordes on the crowded sidewalk. The bay wind scalpeled its way through his wool trench coat, but he didn’t let that stop him, and he didn’t resort to huddling and blowing on his hands, either. He just kept up that same relentless pace that allowed him to push his law firm into success, that allowed him to gut school districts and corporations that tried to treat their employees like crap, and that allowed him to subvert every desire he’d ever had for a warm and comfortable life in favor of the thing his parents had decided he should have instead.

He strode into his office with an expressionless face, because that’s how he always walked through his office.

Leah smiled brightly at him like she did every day.

“Hello, Mr. Driscoll, are we having a good day, Mr. Driscoll, I have your coffee waiting for you, Mr. Driscoll, all of your appointments are on your computer, Mr. Driscoll—”

Her perky sarcasm usually washed over him like acid rain. After those first conservative months, Zach had come to treasure the punk rock diva who couldn’t sing, who wore matching lime-green Converses with her lime-green-and-black suit, and who harangued Zach about his lack of personal life like she had a right.

Her job performance was spectacular.

And she thought she was funny.

Usually Zach tolerated her, but today, as he was walking through the lobby, he had a thought of her in her Christmas dress, flirting with a man just to see him smile, and then a vision of a sort of geeky-looking teacher, dressing up to impress middle schoolers he might never see again.

It was an awful lot of effort to go to, this effort to make people respond to you, wasn’t it?

He turned to her and spared her a brief smile. “Thank you, Leah—I definitely appreciate the coffee.”

Leah’s mouth dropped and her stunned silence actually made him a little sad. Jesus, Zach—way to fail Humanity 101.

Maybe tomorrow, he’d bring her dessert coffee and nut bread. She really did try hard, didn’t she?

HE LEFT a little early the next day to get the coffee and the nut bread, and even though the elevator was still broken down and he had to sidestep at the nineteenth floor again, he was disappointed not to see his substitute teacher/cowboy on the way down.

But Leah brightened up so much with the coffee that he thought maybe it was worth it. After all, he workedwith Leah every day. This other guy he didn’t know from a monkey in the subway.

Anyway, he kept getting off on the nineteenth floor, whether or not the haunted elevator of the guy on twenty-two with the cat-eaten face worked or not, but it didn’t seem to matter. He didn’t see Mr. Cowboy Substitute Teacher the next day, or the next, but on Friday, when he decided that he could be five minutes late and still bring Leah her coffee, that’s when Mr. Cowboy Substitute Teacher slid in at the bell.

But he wasn’t wearing his cowboy outfit anymore.

He was wearing a three-piece suit instead, and for a moment Zach felt absurdly disappointed. He saw suits every day.

Then he noticed that Mr. Cowboy’s Adam’s apple bobbed nervously above the collar of his suit, and that his arms were too long for the obviously off-the-rack ensemble, and that his shirt was a little rumpled and that his tie was off-kilter.

This wasn’t his normal attire, now was it?

“Your tie is crooked,” he said softly, after getting a nervous, flop-sweat smile from the man next to him.

“Oh fuck!”

Zack snapped his head back, because the obscenity was violent, and, well, unexpected. Mr. Cowboy dropped his satchel and his coat at his feet and started fiddling with his tie. “Crap crap crap crap… dammit. I need this freaking job!”

Zach didn’t even know he was doing it until he did it. “Here, hold this.”

Mr. Cowboy grabbed his briefcase from his outstretched hand, and Zach moved in, squaring the knot and adjusting the whole works until it rested neatly at his throat. Cowboy looked up at him—he was about four inches shorter than Zach—with implicit trust, and Zach kept his breathing even and focused exclusively on the tie and not on the little bits of stubble that Cowboy had missed when he’d been shaving, or at the rainy smell of body wash, or the fact that his breath was freshly scrubbed with mint toothpaste. When he was done, he stepped back, still not making contact with those limpid blue eyes, and smoothed his palms against Cowboy’s bony shoulders, then turned him around and did it again.

The door dinged, and Zach took his briefcase back, and then walked away while Cowboy scrambled for all of the stuff left in the bottom of the elevator car.

“Thanks!” he squeaked, and Zach turned around in time to watch him narrowly slide out of the elevator before the doors closed.

“Good luck,” Zach said. He felt something unfamiliar stretch his cheeks, but it wasn’t until the wind hit his teeth that he remembered what it was.

When he gave Leah her coffee, he felt it again. When he was telling his latest client—a gay man who had been fired from his office temp job on some bullshit excuse—that they had the company over a barrel and he could have the settlement and new job of his choosing, he felt it again.

He was smiling. 

ZACH DIDN’T see Mr. Cowboy (or was it Mr. Teacher?) that evening, but since he worked very long hours, he assumed he wouldn’t anyway. Instead, he went to the gym to work out, stopped at a take-out place for dinner, and sat in front of his television, mindlessly wondering if he should call the escort service he sometimes used just so he could have a man pretend to like him.

He couldn’t make himself do it. He kept imagining that Adam’s apple bobbing, and the total vulnerability of that slender neck. Poor guy. Looking for a job in this city must suck. Putting himself out there like that.

He was so brave.

Hiring a rent boy just seemed like the height of cowardice after that.

HE STARTED setting his alarm and crossing his fingers. When he left exactly at that moment, his odds of seeing Teacher-baby (which sounded so much better than Mister anything, because the boy’s limpid blue eyes were just too… yum) increased dramatically.

He left at that moment as often as possible.

On Wednesday he was rewarded. Teacher-baby slid into the elevator, followed by a voice screaming across the hallway.

“Sean! Wait!”

“Dammit, Wendy, I’m late!” He held out an arm though, and kept the elevator from closing. Today he was dressed in jeans and a nice button-down shirt with a sweater over it. If he had to hazard a guess, Zach would guess he was subbing again today—those weren’t the clothes you wore to a new job.

“Todd wants you to get coffee when you come back!”

The girl running down the hallway in her T-shirt and underwear was incredibly pretty. Elfin, delicate, around five seven, with a short cap of dyed-ruby hair, an oval face with a pert little chin and matching nose, and obviously green contacts.

“Does he have money? It’s his turn, and I’m just as broke as he is!”

“Yeah, we all are.” She sighed and held out a hand with a crumpled five in it. “Here—you and me will get it today—again—and Toby and Chris can get it next week. Todd and Katie are up for it after that.” She batted her eyelashes appealingly. “Please, Sean? I know you got it last time, but we all need the stuff, okay?”

Sean sighed and took the money, shoving it into the pocket of his jeans. “Yeah, okay. Go back inside before some pervert ogles your ass.”

She turned to him before she left and grinned. “That would be awesome!” And then disappeared down the hall.

Zach blinked. “That is a lot of people.” He had a penthouse apartment—it took up a quarter of the floor, and it was just him. The other apartments were an eighth of that size, with—

“Six,” Sean (his name was Sean!) confirmed. “Yeah, but prices here—man, they’re steep, you know?”

Zach had sort of known, but now it was more personal. “Yeah,” he said. He didn’t ask why someone would want to live in the city when it was so expensive—who wouldn’t? “How do you all fit?”

“Toby and Chris in their own bedroom, since they’re a couple, the girls and me in a king size in the other bedroom, and Todd the straight guy on the hide-a-bed in the living room. Don’t tell Mr. Driscoll, right?” Sean smiled and winked.

Zach found himself smiling back, because… well, because. “Will the new job help?” he asked, and Sean’s face fell.

“Didn’t get it,” he murmured. “It was a Catholic school—they have morality clauses. I sort of violate them just by my very existence.”

Zach wanted to roar in outrage, or, at the very least, go sue the crap out of someone, but he knew it was legal. Church-run schools had the right.

“Good luck on the next one,” he said gently, and Sean looked up and smiled.

“That’s really sweet,” he said.

Zach found it suddenly hard to breathe, and his mouth went dry, and he was caught up in the idea that the only thing sweet in the world was that oh-dayum smile but the smile faded and—


The elevator door opened and it was time to go. This time Sean left first, but before he walked out the glass doors from the lobby to the street, he turned and offered a tentative smile and a wave.

Zach waved back. That whole stretchy-face/cold-cheek thing lasted until he got to work and everything!

“SHAKESPEARE?” ZACH asked politely.

Sean wore peasant garb today—drawstring pants, a doublet, the floppy hat and everything. He grinned.

“Romeo & Juliet, eighth grade. I get them for a week!”

“That sounds….” Zach couldn’t do it. “Awful,” he apologized. “But I’m glad someone enjoys eighth grade.”

“Well, it’s a lot easier when you practice,” Sean said with a wink. “Besides—I’ve got all this theatre stuff, and I’m teaching them English/History—I mean, it feels like the whole reason I hauled this stuff around with me, you know?”

Zach didn’t know—he’d been on the debate team. But he nodded anyway. “The teaching thing—you really like?”

Sean nodded and Zach was treated to that smile—all teeth and dimples and a ducked head that sort of asked forgiveness for that much joy. “It’s like being the most popular kid in the class. Eighth graders never had it so good!”

Zach hadn’t been particularly popular. He’d kept his head down and his grades good, and had ignored the girls who thought the valedictorian was some sort of trophy.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said quietly, and Sean’s long, mobile face suddenly assumed a look of compassion that Zach was entirely uncomfortable with.


Saved by the bell!


And as for Behind the Curtain?  

What do you guys think about this cover?  

Cause DAYUM– it was a Christmas present in my e-mail box, that was for sure!

0 thoughts on “Going Up! And Christmas wishes :-)”

  1. Unknown says:

    Sounds like you've been busy. Love the cover. Marry Christmas.

  2. Lee Todd says:

    love the cover 🙂

  3. Catie says:

    Merry Christmas Lane family 🙂

  4. Evaine says:

    That cover rocks SO hard it could be Metallica!! (Yes, I am a HUGE Metallica fangurl. *g*)

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