My latest release is from Dreamspinner Press - a Dreamspun Desires in fact. I had a lot of fun writing these boys, though I have to admit, it wasn't the easiest only having two sex scenes in the entire book! Nevertheless, on Saturday there will be a smutty excerpt. Today is a non-smutty excerpt.
Aiden Lake adopted his institutionalized sister’s two daughters, and he’s a good dad. He works nights on websites and gets in his adult time twice a week at the Roasty Bean, where he meets with other single gay parents.
Devon Smithson wants to be a good dad now that his sixteen-year-old sister asked him to babysit her newborn… three months ago. But he’s overwhelmed with the colicky baby. An invitation to the daddy-and-kid gatherings at the café is a godsend. The pot is sweetened when his friendship with Aiden develops into more—maybe even something that can last.
But the mother who kicked Dev out for being gay wants to get her claws into the baby, and she doesn’t care if she tears Dev, Aiden, and everything they’re building apart in the process.
“COME ON, Linds. Let’s get your baby sister ready to go see Uncle Logan and Sarah.” Aiden grabbed the baby’s light jacket and jostled her into it.
“Marci and Missi too, Daddy?” Linds asked, her bright blue eyes fastened on him like he was the answerer of all questions.
“Should be, yes.”
Logan had shared custody, and they all tried to meet twice a week at Zack’s café, the Roasty Bean, so the girls could play.
Not that Sarah played much anymore. Nine years old was way older than he remembered it being, and she was into her phone and spending the night and painting her nails different colors. His little Linds wanted to be her in the worst way. Sarah put up with it surprisingly well.
His biweekly meetings with Zack and Logan helped him stay sane and offered a safe and controlled place for the kids to play. Not to mention the Roasty Bean had the best caramel hazelnut lattes in town.
“Daddy, your belly is rumbling.”
“That’s because I need my coffee!” He growled playfully, hugged Linds tight and grabbed the diaper bag and the carrier in his other hand. “Let’s go have an adventure!”
“Adventure!” She ran ahead of him, opened the front door, then closed it as soon as they were all through. She carefully locked it, then slipped the key into the diaper bag and hurried down the stairs ahead of him. “Adventure! Adventure! Do you think they’ll have ricemallow treats today, Daddy?”
“I bet. Hold my hand.”
“What? I said hold my hand. You can run around at the park this afternoon all you want.”
“Me and Bee both?”
“Bee’s a little young to run. She’s not even walking yet.” One day he’d have two mobile kids and then he’d never sleep again.
He hoped it didn’t rain. It had been nice first thing, but now the clouds were out, blocking the sun, the air smelling of dampness.
It was only a couple of blocks to the Roasty Bean, Linds chattering at him the entire way, talking about everything and nothing. The sound was cheerful and normal, and God, he wanted to… he wanted to go have a beer and hang out by some fancy-assed pool and soak up the sun like any other guy. He hadn’t signed up to have kids, but here he was, father to two little girls. Hell, he supposed he’d been lucky—he’d had a few months to prepare for Bee at least. Meghan had been pregnant when she’d been committed, and he’d inherited Brooke—his little Bee—before she was even born.
They crossed the street, and Linds pulled away from his hand, squealing and running to the coffee shop as she saw her “Uncle” Logan and his daughter Sarah.
His best friend scooped Linds up in one arm and kissed her little cheek. “Hey, angel girl.”
“Uncle Logan! I want ricemallow treats!”
Aiden smiled at Sarah, the young lady offering him a half smile in return. “How’s the baby?” she asked.
“Bee’s fine. You want to hold her?” His headache was beginning to throb now. That caffeine was calling his name.
She nodded and he pointed to the chair. “Once you’re sitting.” She went to the table where Zack, Logan, and a stranger were sitting, and he put the baby in her arms.
“Hey, Aiden. You’re late.” Zack winked and stood. “You want your usual?”
“Please. Two of them?”
“Oh, honey. Late night?” Zack always knew.
“Work.” He had a bunch of updates to do, and it was easier to pull his shifts at night when the kids were asleep.
Zack patted his shoulder. “Oh yeah, this is Devon Smithson. He’s new to the group. Devon, Aiden Lake.”
The guy had a baby over one shoulder, maybe six months old, maybe younger, a boy if he went by the blue blanket. Devon held out a hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Pleased, man. This is Lindsay and Brooke, my daughters.” He nodded as Linds squealed to go play with Zack’s twins, and then he plopped down and sighed. “I’ve never been so glad to smell coffee in my life.”
Logan snorted. “You are a drama queen, Aiden. Devon, ignore everything he says. He’s sleep-deprived.”
“Aren’t we all?” Devon offered him a sympathetic smile, the look warm.
“Tell him your boy’s name,” Logan said. He smirked and Devon rolled his eyes.
“His name is Unicorn.” Devon held up a hand. “I didn’t name him, and I haven’t figured out a good short form for it yet. I mean, Uni? Corn? Un?” Devon shook his head, then grinned. “I’m debating calling him Bob.”
“Unicorn? You aren’t serious.” Who would do that?
Logan was busy laughing his head off, cackling like a fool.
“I am deadly serious. My sister was sixteen when she had him. I’m not sure my mother tried to talk her out of it. Hell, I’m not sure my mother knew she was pregnant. I didn’t know about the baby until Teresa showed up on my doorstep three months ago, begging me to babysit.”
“You….” Oh God. He bet he knew the next chapter of this story.
“Mom turfed me when I came out, but Teresa had stayed in touch, and she showed up, crying that Mom had kicked her out too and she’d found a place, but she needed someone to babysit while she moved in. Only she never came back, and her phone is suddenly out of service.” Devon shrugged. “What was I supposed to do? It’s not the baby’s fault my family is screwed up.”
“Did she leave you with a birth certificate? Anything?” That was Logan, his lawyer brain always clicking and thinking. “Christ.”
Aiden stared at Devon, shocked to shit. Sure, he had his sister’s kids, but they were his—legally, totally. No questions. If Meghan ever left the hospital, she’d be able to see the girls, but he was their dad. Full stop.
“No, man, she just left him with me. For the first couple of weeks, I was hoping she’d come back. It’s clear now that she’s not going to, and I’ve been too busy just keeping him alive to worry about custody.”
“We need to talk, man.” Logan held up one hand when Devon tried to argue. “Gratis, but you need to be protected, and so does this child.”
“Maybe you can get his name changed,” Aiden muttered under his breath. Two lattes landed in front of him. “Oh thank God.”
“That would be great, Logan, thanks.” Devon ran a hand through his shaggy brown hair. “It’s great having some adult conversation. And he’s sleeping!” Devon chuckled. “It’s like gold, that.”
“He isn’t a sleeper? I was lucky that Bee slept from two weeks. She just wants to sleep and eat.”
“Oh, that is lucky. I don’t know if it’s because he misses his mother or what, but no, U is not a sleeper. I thought something was wrong, but the doc says everything’s okay. He’s colicky, but there’s nothing they can do about that.” Devon shrugged. “He’s usually happy enough if I’m holding him, so I’ve gotten to be a dab hand at the one-handed everything.”
“You’re a good guy, man.” Better than he’d have been, that was for sure.
“There’s been times I’ve thought it would be easier to call child protective services, but he’s the only family I have. And I’m all he’s got. We need to stick together.”
Aiden pushed one of the lattes toward Devon. “Here, you need this.”
The girls were laughing in the play area, building things out of Legos.
“Thanks, man.” Devon grinned. “Gotta admit, my caffeine of choice is usually an energy drink.”
Zack chuckled. “Dev’s a gamer.”
“I’m a writer, man.” Dev was clearly trying to go for affronted but wasn’t managing it very well.
“You write game manuals. Which means you have to play the games first,” Zack pointed out.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m still paid to write, not play.”
“Technicality,” Logan suggested.
Aiden got it. He did. He used to spend his entire life on the internet. Now he just spent his nights there. “I’m a web designer. These hooligans don’t understand.”
“Oh, that’s great.” Dev nodded, smiled. Yeah, Dev got it. “These guys are living in the dark ages.”
“So long as the coffee keeps flowing, I don’t give an S-H-I-T.” Aiden spelled it out in deference to the kiddies.
“Sarah can spell, guys, so that’s not going to work anymore.” Logan wagged his finger at them. “You’ll have to use euphemisms instead.”
“I don’t know. ‘I don’t give a sugar’ doesn’t have the same ring,” Dev noted.
“I don’t give a shadow? I don’t give a shamrock?” Aiden was more than willing to play along.
“I don’t give a salamander,” Dev suggested. “I don’t give a sausage.”
“Oh, I don’t know…,” Zack muttered, so softly. “I think we all give a sausage around here.”
Dev hooted, the sound loud enough that the other patrons and the kids all stopped to stare. It was a great noise. “You’re probably right.”
“Ah, boys. When did we lose control of everything?” Logan chuckled, shook his head, and looked at his daughter, who was cradling Bee, talking away to her. “And I mean everything.”
“It’s their birthright,” Dev suggested. “I’ve got a half-dozen apps on my phone for U already.”
“That’s unnatural.” Zack shook his head. “I don’t even have the little tablets for the twins. I just… I don’t want them to be hooked in too soon, you know?” Then Zack blinked, head tilted. “Christ, that sounded judgmental as anything. I’m sorry.”
“I’ll forgive you if you forgive me for thinking you’re not giving your girls the advantage of early adoption of technology.” Dev gave Zack a wink.
“Fair enough. How’s the coffee, Aiden?”
“Perfect, as always.” Little Bee began to kick and fuss, and he leaned down, scooped her up from Sarah’s arms.
“This is nice. Sitting around with grown-ups. You do this twice a week, you said?” Dev asked Logan.
“Yeah. I only have Miss Sarah on Fridays. Her mom and I share custody, and she has piano lessons on Tuesdays, but I still usually come in for the coffee, and the croissants Zack gets from the bakery, so I don’t like missing it.”
Aiden rolled his eyes at Logan and cut him off. “He meant to say yes. Just yes. Tuesdays and Fridays.”
“Sounds good. You guys don’t mind if I crash the party, right?”
Aiden bounced Bee on his shoulder and dug out the prefilled bottle from the diaper bag. “Of course not. Anytime.”
The baby on Dev’s shoulder started whining, and Dev began bouncing him. As if Bee wanted to compete, she started fussing, kicking her little feet.
Dev chuckled as his boy escalated from whining to wailing. “The baby version of dueling banjos?”
“She needs her bottle, but yeah.”
“Yeah, so does U. He’s always hungry it seems.” Dev got a bottle out of his diaper bag and popped it in his kid’s mouth, suction immediate and strong, the crying going blessedly silent.
The little boy was half the size of Bee, a tiny little baby, cooing and fighting for the nipple. Aiden’s girls both looked like their mother, which made it easier for them—blonde and blue-eyed, on the short, stocky side.
“He loves this new formula much better than the one I was feeding him. Who knew?” Dev rolled his eyes. “And who knew this would be my life now? Formula and feedings every couple of hours.”
“Yeah. At least I had warning. Six months to plan for Bee. Linds was finishing up potty training when I got her.”
“Did you adopt?” Dev asked, moving his boy up over his shoulder again and patting his back.
“Yes, but not in the way you’re thinking. I have a sister. It’s complicated, but she’s been committed and I adopted both girls.”
Dev’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t ask the obvious question of what his sister had been committed for. “Adopted, huh? I suppose that’s the route I’m going to need to take.”
“If you’re going to raise him, that’s your safest bet.” Logan pulled out a business card. “Set up an appointment with my assistant, Markus.”
Dev took the card. “I’d make some joke about chasing ambulances or something, but I’m grateful for the help.”
“To quote our good friend Aiden, I’m basically a decent human being—for a blood-sucking lawyer.”
Chuckling, Dev nudged Aiden under the table with his foot. “Good one.”
“I’m a brilliant son of a b—”
Zack cleared his throat.
Dev and Logan burst out laughing, which set Unicorn off.
“Oh damn.” Dev stood and began bouncing the baby more vigorously.
“Can I try?” Zack asked. “I love the smell of babies.”
“You’re such a girl, man,” Aiden teased.
“Hush, he’s taking U. That’s good enough for me.” Dev held the baby out and Zack grabbed him up.
The wee boy settled down immediately, relaxing in Zack’s arms.
“Damn. You have to teach me how to do that.”
“It’s called being Zack,” he said, and Logan nodded.
“We hate him.”
“Well, now I know what to do when he just won’t stop. You are open at midnight, right?”
“We open at 5:00 a.m., man. I don’t do midnight.”
“There was a time I would have been going to bed at five thirty. Now I crash whenever I can.” Dev grinned. “I will put you in charge of my Unicorn every Tuesday and Friday, though.”
“Sounds like a plan. I miss babies.”
“You’re insane,” Logan informed Zack.
“Hey, don’t talk him out of it, guys; I need him to hold my baby.”
Aiden put Bee over his shoulder, burping her gently.
Logan glanced at his watch. “I should go, guys. Sarah’s got a birthday party.”
“Sure. I guess the kid and I should go too.” Dev looked disappointed, though.
Aiden didn’t want to go anywhere either. He wanted to rest and see other adults. “Is it okay if I stay, Zack? She’s playing, she’s happy, and it’s about to rain.”
“Of course you can. You can too, Dev. We don’t have a time limit at these things.”
“Oh cool. That’d be great. Thanks.” Dev grinned. “Especially if you’re going to keep the baby for a while.”
Zack laughed. “I totally am.”
“Okay, guys. I’m going to take her to that party.” Logan stood, stretched, his back popping. “I’m thinking about a Despicable Me and pizza party at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow night, if anyone’s in.”
Aiden shrugged. “Maybe. Linds isn’t sure if Dr. Nefario is the devil or not.”
“You could leave her there and come watch Deadpool with me and the babies,” Dev suggested. “I could use the company.”
He wasn’t sure Linds was ready for being left anywhere. “Or you could come over to mine and we could put the babies down together.”
“Whatever. Holler one way or the other.” Logan touched Sarah’s shoulder. “Come on, kiddo. Let’s go eat cake.”
“Do I have to go? Troy’s a bully.”
“Your mom said I was supposed to take you.” Logan waved and led Sarah out the door, the two of them arguing.
Dev watched them go. “Maybe I should be happy all U does is cry, eh?”
“And she’s only nine. It gets worse.” Aiden shuddered dramatically.
“She does have two lawyers for parents,” Zack pointed out.
“Poor thing.” Dev winked, eyes twinkling.
“No sh… sugar.” Argh.
Dev laughed again, and Aiden decided he really liked the sound of it, bright and full of light.
“I know, right? You spend a lifetime working on your best foul language and then bang, kids.” Not that Aiden would trade his girls for being able to swear.
Dev’s chuckles continued. “Yeah, that’s it exactly. Can I buy you another coffee? After all, you sacrificed one of yours to me.”
“That would totally be acceptable, sir.” He grinned and waved to Jeannette, the barista. “My new good friend here is going to buy me another.”
“You got it, Mr. Lake. Does your daughter need anything?”
“Linds is fine, honey. She’s playing with the twins.”
“I’ll have a lemonade this time.” Dev handed over a couple of bills.
“You got it. I’ll bring it around.” She looked at the plate glass windows. “Looks like that storm’s gonna hit soon.”
Dev checked it out. “You guys think it’s going to be bad? U and I haven’t weathered a storm together yet.”
“Well, I’m going to insist that you and Aiden hang out for a while, huh?” Zack told them.
“I will hang out for at least as long as you keep U sleeping.”
Zack hugged Dev’s kid tight. “Yeah, no problem there.”
Jeannette brought their drinks, and they waited till she’d gone again before picking them up and having sips.
“So how do you like being a dad?” Dev asked after taking a long swig.
“I….” Aiden stopped, pondering all the various answers to that, because Jesus, there were a lot. “Which answer do you want?”
“Uh… the right one?” Dev grinned and shrugged. “I’m just starting out, and it seems like this impossible task. So how do you like it? How do you deal?”
“I deal because I love them. I mean, it’s hard, and sometimes I feel like crying, like I’ll never get laid again, like I’m never not going to smell like baby formula.” Aiden sipped his coffee, loving the burned-sugar flavor. “Then again, Linds calls me Daddy and it’s real, and I love her because she’s my little girl.”
Dev looked a little misty and smiled. “Good deal, man. I’m going to remember that when he’s got me awake all night. And I hear you on the getting-laid thing. Though to be honest I wasn’t exactly racking up the bed partners before I got him.”
“No? I, uh, well, I had a guy. He wasn’t into the family life.” Hank had been very clear, honestly. Very.
“That’s too bad that he couldn’t stick it out with you.” They were all quiet for a moment, like the moment of silence at a funeral. A moment of silence for his lost relationship.
“It’s okay. He couldn’t suck worth a… sugar.”
Dev looked shocked for a second, then joined Zack in more laughter.
“I’d kill for a BJ right now. It’s been way more than the three months that I’ve had U,” Dev admitted.
“My twins are six. Six. Twins. Six.” Zack said it like it trumped them both, and Aiden guessed that it did.
Dev groaned. “Don’t tell me things like that. I have to hold out hope that I’m still going to meet attractive guys who aren’t going to run screaming when they learn I have a kid.” Dev might have been answering Zack, but his gaze was on Aiden when he said it.
“At least you only have one. I have two.”
Zack patted his own chest. “Guys. Twins.”
Aiden rolled his eyes. “Yes, Zack. We know, and you want another one. Weirdo.”
“I have to admit, that does sound rather insane, Zack.”
“You two don’t appreciate what you have.”
“We have what we have twenty-four seven,” Dev countered. “They’re easy if you’re holding them for twenty minutes and that’s it.”
Zack snorted. “Twins. From birth. I know.”
Dev glanced over. “Did you raise them all alone?”
Zack shook his head, and Aiden reached over, took his buddy’s hand, because he’d been here. He knew. Watching Steven’s death had been hell on earth.
“He passed away eighteen months ago. Liver cancer. It was quick, brutal.”
“Oh God. I’m sorry—I didn’t know. Damn.” Dev looked stricken.
“You couldn’t have known,” Zack told him.
“No. It’s okay.” Aiden smiled at his friend and added, “Zack made it.”
“I did, and so did the girls. Together we’re figuring it out.”
“That’s great, man. Really.” Dev took a long drink from his lemonade, head tilted back, throat working.
Aiden shot Zack a grin, then leaned to check the girls. Linds was curled up on one of the booths back there, holding a dolly and dozing, blinking slowly as she watched the older twins play.
Zack chuckled. “It’s hard work to be three.”
“It’s hard work being any age,” Dev suggested.
That increased Zack’s chuckles. “Yeah, I suppose it is at that.”
“I don’t know. Six months old seems to be pretty decent for this one.” He hadn’t gotten custody of Linds until she was two, so he wasn’t sure if that was just Bee or all six-month-olds.
“Not my boy. I mean he’s not quite five months yet, but he’s pretty miserable a lot of the time. Colic is hell.” Dev leaned toward Zack and rubbed Unicorn’s back, the look on his face soft and loving. Dev might complain, but clearly he was all-in with the kid.
“Yeah. Yeah, I can’t imagine.” That had to totally suck. Aiden’s girls were, for the most part, easygoing, peaceful.
“I keep telling myself he’ll grow out of it, that we’ll figure it out. Sometimes I even believe it.” Dev grinned. “I don’t mean to be maudlin, but I don’t usually have anyone to bitch to.”
“That’s why we’re here, right? Coffee, companionship, and comfort.” The three Cs.
“Yeah, that’s great.” Dev pulled his phone out of his pocket. “You mind sharing your number? For when it’s not Tuesday or Friday?”
“Not at all. I’m up late working, as a rule. I’ll give you my social media info too.”
“It’s not healthy, you know,” Zack muttered.
“It was healthy enough when you had me set up the Roasty everywhere, Luddite.”
“You two have a whole routine going, don’t you?”
Aiden winked at Dev. “It’s a distraction and it’s easy. Harmless fun.”
“How long have you known each other?” Dev asked.
“Eight years? Nine?”
Zack nodded. “Aiden and Steven were best friends, roommates in university.”
“That’s a long time.” Dev gave him a sympathetic look. “And I’m sorry for your loss too.”
“Thanks, man. Steven was a cool guy, like a brother to me.” And so was Zack. A good guy, family, even though they drove each other insane.
“That’s great. I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of friends who are more than just a handle on the Net. I lost more than my family when I came out, and my job lets me keep to myself.”
“That sucks, man. Seriously. My folks died in a car accident when my sister was a teenager, but they were totally supportive.”
“Wow. We’re a sad bunch, aren’t we?” Dev downed the rest of his lemonade. “We should plug in to some game and shoot things. I always find that cheers me up.”
Zack rolled his eyes, shook his head, then jumped as the thunder rocked, shook the entire building, and five little ones wailed.
smut fixes everything