Sticks and Stones is now finally available! I worked on the story, off and on, for so long it feels amazing to finally get it out there into the world.
Sticks and Stones is a low-angst Male/Male, BDSM novella. There’s a grumpy dom, a switchy sub, a workplace romance, as well as cages, kilts and kinkiness.
It’s set in The Spread Eagle BDSM club, and is best read as part of the Kinky Cupid series. (And, by the way, the fourth book in the series, All the Gear, is up for pre-order now, ready for release on March 1st.)
It has a fantastic cover, by the lovely Kris Norris…
Here’s the blurb…
As the owner of The Spread Eagle, Mr Tomlinson has told himself that the only reason he keeps a watchful eye on his bartender, Dan, is because he doesn’t like his employees slacking off when they’re on the clock. What other interest could he have in Dan when they are both confirmed doms?
Finding out from the club’s resident brat, Bret, that Dan has switched in the past, opens up a whole new world of opportunities for Mr Tomlinson. And, discovering that Bret is trying to set Dan up with a dom who is completely unsuitable for him means that Mr Tomlinson has to act quickly.
But was everything Bret told Mr Tomlinson the truth? And, if Dan really is a switch, why has he been lying about that ever since he came to work at The Spread Eagle?
And an excerpt…
“What are you two up to this time?”
The boys jumped at the sound of Gareth Tomlinson’s voice. Bret looked innocent—nothing surprising there—he could probably be caught looming over a stabbing victim with a bloody knife in his hand and still look angelic. Ricky, on the other hand, had never acquired his friend’s skill as an actor. He looked as guilty as hell.
Any tiny doubts that Tomlinson might have harboured about whether or not The Spread Eagle’s resident brat and his side-kick were cooking up a new scheme disappeared.
Stopping just a yard away from them, Tomlinson folded his arms across his chest and glared at Bret.
“Good evening, Mr Tomlinson,” Ricky offered, politely.
Tomlinson kept all his attention on Bret. “Spit it out. What are you planning?”
Bret’s eyes opened very wide. He held his hands up in surrender. “Me?”
Tomlinson raised an eyebrow, not even slightly impressed. “It’s less than a week until Valentine’s Day, don’t bother trying to tell me you aren’t planning to make some poor sod’s life a living hell between now and then.”
Bret’s lips twitched.
Tomlinson looked heavenward and wondered what he’d done wrong in a previous life to make the brat pick his club to play in. He glanced at Ricky, who still looked guilt-ridden.
Just because Bret’s plans hadn’t got Ricky killed last year, was no reason to let him run riot again this year.
“Bret,” he warned.
Most subs tended to tremble in their highly polished boots when he used that tone with them, so did a fair number of doms. Bret just grinned.
“I may have just casually mentioned to one guy that another guy isn’t actually a dom, but a switch,” he acknowledged.
Tomlinson held back a sigh. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance the guy you told him about actually is a switch.”
“Actually, he is,” Bret said.
“Right,” Tomlinson huffed. “Of course he is.”
“No, he really is a switch, sir,” Ricky cut in. Tomlinson studied him for a few seconds. Even though the boys spent a hell of a lot of time together, there was no evidence that Ricky had picked up any of Bret’s less endearing habits. If he met someone’s eye when he spoke, he was telling the truth.
“Just who are we talking about here?” Tomlinson demanded.
“McCormack,” Bret said.
Tomlinson raised an eyebrow at him. “You told someone that McCormack is a switch? And the idiot believed you?”
Bret laughed and shook his head. “No! I dropped a hint to McCormack that Dan is a switch—and he is. If you don’t believe me, you can ask my master. They’ve known each other for years, and even if Dan hasn’t switched since he started working here, he really is into it and—”
“Dan Stephens? Dan, who works behind my bar?” Tomlinson cut in.
Bret nodded, still smiling as if the world was a bloody brilliant place.
“You found out that Dan has switched in the past, and the first thing you do is try to put a dom like McCormack on his tail?” Tomlinson expanded.
“You don’t think they’ll be good together?” Bret asked, his tone once more dripping with sweetness.
For several seconds, Tomlinson was speechless. No, he didn’t bloody well think they’d be good together. The idea of Dan subbing to a guy like McCormack was appalling.
Hell, the idea of Dan subbing to any of the doms who came to the club was nothing short of horrifying.
Tomlinson didn’t consider himself to be in the habit of coddling his staff, or feeling even vaguely protective over experienced doms. But his every instinct had prompted him to keep a discreet eye on Dan ever since the guy started working at The Spread Eagle. Now Tomlinson knew why.
A switch. He should have guessed.
His instincts regarding another man’s kinks hadn’t been over-ruled by a cocky smile and a hot arse after all. Dan did have a sub side to him—one that he might be willing to let out to play if given the right encouragement.
Tomlinson’s mind raced as he rejigged his mental map of the world to include a few possibilities that he’d thought weren’t so possible just a few minutes before. Dan was single. If he was also open to playing the sub role, then there was no reason why they couldn’t–
A whisper caught Tomlinson’s attention and scattered his thoughts. He didn’t catch what Bret said to Ricky, but he didn’t need to know details.
He stepped forward, as if he could literally put himself shield-like between Dan and the two subs. “Listen to me, both of you. I’m not having a repeat of last year’s nonsense. What’s done is done, but it’s not happening again. You’ll leave Dan alone.” He paused for a second. “And you’ll leave McCormack alone,” he added, just for form’s sake.
“But—” Bret began.
“No buts. If I have to bring your master into the matter, I will.”
Bret hesitated. He pursed his lips as if he was considering his options, but mentioning Marcus seemed to have swayed him just as easily as Tomlinson expected.
Finally, Bret nodded. “Whatever. Even if we did get McCormack interested in him, it probably wouldn’t have been that much fun anyway. Ten to one McCormack would have just disappeared into a private room with him, and we’d have never got the details out of either of them.”
Tomlinson clenched his teeth as images of what might have happened in that private room rushed to fill his mind. No.
For the first time, he looked past Bret and Ricky, to the corner they’d been peering around. His stomach lurched.
Striding past the boys, he stepped into the club’s main bar room.
Dan was behind the bar. That was right and proper, and just as things should be. But, McCormack was also there, standing alongside the bar, directly opposite Dan. Almost before he knew what he was doing, Tomlinson found himself across the room.
“Tomorrow night?” McCormack asked Dan, just as Tomlinson came within earshot.
“Dan’s not available tomorrow night,” Tomlinson cut in.
Dan looked up from the glass he was cleaning. McCormack looked over his shoulder. Both looked slightly startled by his sudden appearance, but neither appeared to feel the least bit uncomfortable. The fact that neither of them seemed to think they’d been doing anything wrong didn’t improve Tomlinson’s mood in the slightest.
McCormack hitting on a switch was wrong. Dan even thinking about playing out a scene with a dom as unsuitable for him as McCormack was wrong.
“I’m not available?” Dan asked.
“No, you’re not. You’re working.”
Dan glanced over his shoulder toward where the shift roster hung on the wall behind the bar. It was too far away for either of them to be able to read it, but Tomlinson knew damn well that Dan’s name wasn’t down for the following day.
“You said you wanted more shifts,” Tomlinson reminded him.
“I did…” Dan acknowledged.
McCormack picked his beer up off the bar. Before he walked away, he said something about arranging to meet up with Dan some other time.
Tomlinson didn’t say anything, he didn’t even look away from Dan, but if McCormack thought that he was going to find an evening when Dan wasn’t working, he was going to have a bloody long wait in store.
Dan nodded to McCormack, but quickly turned his complete attention to Tomlinson.
“Is someone ill?”
“Mr Lewis said that he’d assigned all the shifts for the rest of the month. That I was out of luck unless someone called in sick.”
Tomlinson shook his head. “It’s not bar work.” That wouldn’t keep him away from McCormack—or from any of the other doms who would undoubtedly be sniffing around Dan if word about his interest in switching was spreading. “We’re re-doing some of the playrooms, but we need to sort out everything we’ve got in storage in the basement first. Is that a problem?”
Dan shook his head. “No problem at all. If it pays, then whatever work you’ve got is fine with me.”
Tomlinson nodded, quite happy to pay Dan out of his own pocket if necessary.
Dan remained silent. For several seconds, they just stared at each other. Finally, Tomlinson realised that Dan had to be wondering why the hell he was just standing by the bar like an idiot.
Because I just found out you’re a switch, and that I might have a chance with you, would probably be a bad answer. “Same hours as your normal shift,” he said instead.
Dan nodded. “Works for me.”
Tomlinson turned on his heel and strode out of the room. He didn’t look over his shoulder to check if Dan was watching him go, but only because he had far too much pride to risk getting caught doing that.
He was halfway across the club when he spotted McCormack at one of the stations in the biggest of the public playrooms, tying up an older sub who’d been a regular at the club for years. He was the kind of sub McCormack was perfect for—tough, experienced and completely confident in his submission.
Tomlinson paused a yard or two away from the play area. With McCormack’s focus on someone other than Dan, Tomlinson found that he was once more able to watch him work without any concern for anyone’s safety and great appreciation for McCormack’s skill as a rigger.
“Expecting a good show or predicting a problem?”
Tomlinson didn’t bother looking over his shoulder. He’d been business partners with Steve Lewis for over twenty years now. He knew his voice better than any man he’d ever played with—and his sense of timing, too.
Was McCormack going to be a problem, Tomlinson wondered? No—not if he kept his attention on guys other than Dan.
“I’m starting work on the basement tomorrow night,” Tomlinson said.
He felt Lewis staring at him, waiting for some sort of explanation. Well, sod that. He didn’t have to explain every single decision to him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lewis shrug. “Whatever percs your coffee. Rather you than me.”
“I told Dan he could help me—since he’s looking for extra shifts.”
“He wouldn’t be my first choice.”
Tomlinson glanced briefly at his business partner before quickly turning his attention back to the scene unfolding in front of them. Lewis had soundedlike he was talking about moving heavy bits of kit around in dusty spaces, but that had never meant a lot with him.
Five years older than Tomlinson, and even more experienced with leather, Lewis still had the annoying ability to make Tomlinson feel like he was a newbie who’d yet to break in his first whip.
“Well, it should at least keep Dan out of trouble for a while,” Lewis allowed.
“That’s what I thought,” Tomlinson said, aiming for a bored tone of voice but not sure he managed to hit quite the right note.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Lewis said, as he turned away.
“Talk about giving a man a lot of scope,” Tomlinson muttered under his breath.
Lewis chuckled as he walked off. Even if he hadn’t heard what Tomlinson had said, he’d known him long enough to know what his response to that kind of advice would be.
As he watched McCormack tie another knot in the rope binding the sub, it was easy for Tomlinson to switch the two men out of the picture and put himself and Dan in their place.
An evening spent in a cluttered basement wouldn’t be the same as an evening spent at a play station, but it was hard to ignore the fact that there were a hell of a lot of bits of bondage equipment in storage down there. It probably wouldn’t be hard to find something he could use to tie up Dan, if the need arose.
Thank you for reading!
Hope everyone will have an amazing February!
P.S. I’m still ticking along with Bayden’s Alpha. If it was going to come out the predicted length (120k) I would be over half way through the first draft at this point.
However, I’m nowhere near half way through the plot, so it looks like it’s going to run quite a bit longer than intended.
Unless I cut a hell of a lot during edits, it will probably end up being the same length as Axel’s Pup (180K) or even longer.