Love Letters – A story for Colin’s Birthday

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“What’s your most prized possession?” Joshua asked.

“My wedding ring,” Nate replied without a moment’s hesitation.

“I’d have to say that too,” Colin echoed. “Followed closely by this.” He pulled a pendant from around his neck, extending it for all to see. “It’s the emblem that was on our Chuppah. The Star of David wrapped in the Celtic Cross. The one his mother had designed for us.”

Joshua nodded. “I’m with Colin 100 percent.”

“Hmm,” David mused. “Well, I love my wedding ring. But my most prized possession—or rather possessions,” he amended quickly, “are the letters Nate wrote to me when he and I lived on opposite coasts. I treasure those letters beyond anything else in my life. I came to know him through those letters; we grew close though writing to each other.” He paused for a moment then continued. “Maybe the distance made it possible for us to be more open, more honest. But I can follow the path of our love’s growth just by reading them in order. They still give me a thrill.”

Nate leapt to his feet and pressed a kiss to David’s cheek. He whispered something into his ear, then settled on his lap. “Well, I am a good writer.” He kissed David again, then turned to Joshua. “You must treasure Colin’s love letters the same way.”

“I don’t have any,” Joshua replied. “He never wrote me a love letter, or any other kind of letter, come to think of it.”

“I don’t like putting things in writing,” Colin mumbled.

“What!” Nate spouted. “You afraid he’ll sue you?”

“Hey!” Colin responded. “He never wrote me any either.”

“Well, none that I actually sent,” Joshua murmured, drawing a darting glance from Colin.

“You wrote me love letters but didn’t send them?”

Joshua shrugged. “I wrote them more for me than for you. To, well… vent my feelings, I guess. Given the way we parted I didn’t think you’d care to read them.”

Colin growled out an unintelligible response and turned away scowling, staring into the fireplace.

“Give them to him now,” Nate suggested, noting Colin’s somber expression.

“Do you still have them?” Colin asked, spinning toward his husband.

“I think they’re in Glencoe,” Joshua told him. “In my dresser drawer.”

“I want those letters,” Colin blurted out.

“Oh, Lord god,” Joshua moaned.

“What?” Nate asked. “You don’t want him to read them?”

“I was pretty—well—emotional when I wrote them. They might be a little,” he squirmed, his face flushed, “embarrassing.”

“For whom?” Nate asked. “Him? Or you?”

“Me mainly,” Joshua admitted. “I honestly didn’t think anyone would ever read them, so I was pretty, umm…” he shrugged, his voice trailing off.

“Open and honest?” David suggested.

Joshua grimaced. “More like blunt and explicit.”

“I want those letters,” Colin repeated.

“Honey, why?” Joshua said, leaning toward him. “I was pretty upset when I wrote them. I was just… spewing. Trying to ease my broken heart. They weren’t really meant to be read. They were…” he shrugged again, “… therapy.”

“Did you go into detail about what a dick he was?” Nate asked, nudging Colin with his elbow.

“No!” Joshua said. “Of course not! He wasn’t a dick.”

“I was a dick,” Colin disagreed, leaning forward to poke Nate back. “I was a huge dick.”

“Now you’re just bragging,” Nate teased.

Colin reached for Joshua’s hand. “I won’t read them if you’d rather I didn’t,” he told his husband. “But I will say this. There’s no amount of emotional openness and honestly, even blunt and explicit honesty, that you need ever find embarrassing. Not with me.” His hand tightened and he drew Joshua closer. “And I’d genuinely like to know what you were feeling back then.”

“Oh god, Colin,” Joshua groaned. He grimaced and bowed his head, then felt Colin’s hand tug him closer.

“I want to read them,” he repeated.

“Fine!” Joshua said, sagging in defeat. He husked out a noisy sigh. “Next time we’re in Glencoe I’ll give them to you.”

“Oh, I cannot wait to hear what’s in those letters,” Nate said with a grin.

“You honestly think I’d tell you what’s in them?” Colin asked him, then dunked two fingers into his glass of beer and flicked the liquid onto Nate’s face. “Forget it!”

Nate wiped his face, laughing. “You don’t know that. Wait ‘til you read them. You might want to broadcast them to everyone you know.”

“Not unless he wants to spend a month eating bread and water for dinner,” Joshua muttered, slumping in his chair. “I don’t even want him to read them let alone anyone else.”

“Unless you absolutely forbid it, I’m reading those letters,” Colin declared.

“Well, I won’t forbid it,” Joshua said, his voice heavy with reluctance. “But I won’t be doing the dance of joy either.”

“How many are there?” Nate asked.

“Only a few, three or four. I may have thrown some of them away.”

“Josh!” Colin protested.

“Well, dammit, Colin, I never expected you to read them! I told you. They were just… therapy.”

“We gotta’ plan a trip to Glencoe.”

“Oh god help me.”

***

But it was weeks before they even discussed a trip to Glencoe and only then because Colin’s birthday was approaching, and Joshua’s family wanted to celebrate it with him. Much to Joshua’s relief, Colin hadn’t mentioned the letters since they’d first discussed them with David and Nate, and he secretly hoped they’d slipped his mind. Maybe I can manage to avoid this whole embarrassing chapter, he thought.

When they finally arrived at the Abrams family home, Joshua carried his suitcase up the long staircase which led to their bedroom while Colin lingered behind in animated conversation with Joshua’s mother and brother.

“Jessica baked you the most beautiful cake,” Bracha told him. “I can’t wait for you to see it!”

“You guys are so good to me,” Colin said, then kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

“And I might even let you win a game of chess this trip,” Joshua’s brother teased. “As a birthday present, you know.”

“Oh, Abel, please spare me your bull…” he glanced at Bracha and hastily changed the ending, “…crap. I kicked your Jewish butt last time we were here. You leaned too hard on the ‘King’s Gambit’ and it cost you, bro.”

Joshua looked down at them from the top of the stairs and smiled, then lugged his suitcase into the bedroom. He tossed it onto the bed, then on impulse moved to the dresser. For a moment he stood before it in silence, then slid the top drawer open. Tucked far in the back underneath a pile of socks lay a packet of papers wrapped in a red ribbon. Joshua hesitated, then drew them out and stared down at them, startling when the bedroom door burst open, admitting an excited Colin.

“Hey bud, guess what!” he blurted out, tossing his suitcase next to Joshua’s. “Jessica baked me a cake!”

“Well, you had to know she would,” Joshua replied, laughing. He shoved the letters to the back of the drawer and shut it before Colin could notice. “Do you want to unpack now?” Joshua asked. “Or wait ‘til after dinner.” He turned toward Colin and glanced at his watch. “Probably won’t be long ‘til we eat.”

Colin flopped onto the bed and sat motionless, staring at Joshua. “What I want, my dearest husband, is for you to stop sandbagging me and give me those letters.”

Joshua winced and let out a frustrated sigh. “Dammit, Colin!”

“What! C’mon, Josh. How bad can they be?”

Joshua wrinkled his nose. “Have you ever done anything deeply embarrassing?”

“Well, there’s the time I puked on your shoes in McCafferty’s parking lot,” Colin admitted with a grin. “But, shit, I don’t dwell on that kind of stuff. Everyone does embarrassing things at some point in their lives. And anyway, why should love letters embarrass you?”

“Because they’re not just love letters,” Joshua told him. “They’re me having an emotional breakdown in writing because the man I loved broke my heart.” He shot Colin an exasperated glance. “God, I’m sorry I ever mentioned them.”

Colin frowned and got to his feet. He walked to where Joshua stood and laid both hands on his shoulders. “Look,” he said, “I don’t want you upset. If you’d really prefer that I not read them, then I won’t.” He shook Joshua gently. “We’ll have a ritual and burn them in the fireplace or something. Just to mark the occasion.” He pressed his lips to Joshua’s forehead then flashed his dimples in a quick grin. “It’s my birthday, baby! I want you to be happy!”

“Actually, your birthday was last weekend. We spent it in Situate at your mother’s house, remember?”

“This is my ‘second’ birthday.”

“How many do you get?”

“As many as I damn well please.”

Joshua leaned against Colin’s chest and was enveloped in two strong arms which pulled him close. For a long moment he rested there, drawing in long, deep breaths, luxuriating in the feeling of Colin’s body pressed tightly against his own. He’s so damned good to me, Joshua thought.

He leaned back and stared up at Colin for a moment, then abruptly spun to face the dresser. He pulled the drawer open, grabbed the packet of papers, wheeled back to face Colin, and held them out. “Here.”

“I thought you didn’t…”

“I changed my mind.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you. Because you’re wonderful. And because it’s your second birthday and I don’t have any other gift to give you.” He extended the letters toward Colin. “Take them.”

Colin frowned and tilted his head, gazing at Joshua, his expression thoughtful. “Are you sure?”

“Take them,” Joshua said, jamming the letters into Colin’s hand. “Now go sit on the driftwood and read them cause I don’t want to be around.”

Colin tapped the letters against the palm of his hand, still gazing at Joshua. “OK. If you’re sure it’s what you want.”

“Go,” Joshua told him, then pushed him gently toward the door. “Just be sure no one else sees them!”

“I didn’t think I’d get to see them,” Colin told him, moving out of the bedroom and down the stairs. “I sure as hell wouldn’t let anyone else read my letters.” At the bottom of the stairs Colin turned and looked up at Joshua who stood at the top of the steps, leaning on the railing. For a long moment he didn’t move, then he threw Joshua a salute and strode toward the front door.

***

Darkness was falling by the time Colin returned to the house. Joshua was helping Jessica set the table for dinner, engaged in a lively discussion over whether or not Jessica would sit with the family on this occasion.

“You know Colin will want you there,” Joshua said, placing silverware next to each plate.

“What that sassy Irishman wants and what he gets are two different things!” Jessica snapped.

“C’mon, Jess,” Joshua coaxed. “It’d really make him happy if you sat with us. You know you are part of this family.”

The housekeeper scowled at him for a long moment, then sighed. “I’ll sit with you after I serve,” she conceded. “But only because it’s Colin’s birthday.”

Joshua smiled and hugged her just as Colin strode into the dining room. “You making him work for his supper?” he asked, hugging Jessica as well.

“He’s been setting the table for me since he was this tall,” Jessica told him, her palm nearly level with the floor.

“Give a call when you’re ready to serve,” Joshua called after her as she moved into the kitchen. “I’ll come help.” He turned back to Colin. “You hungry?”

“When am I not hungry?” Colin asked, then extended his hand. “Come with me for a minute.”

“Oh god,” Joshua moaned softly.

“What?”

“Are you going to make me talk about those letters?” Joshua asked as they strolled into the living room. “Do you have a million questions?”

Colin fell onto a sofa and pulled Joshua down beside him. He huffed out a noisy sigh and for a moment simply gazed into Joshua’s eyes. Then he pulled the packet of letters from his jacket pocket and held them out. “No. I don’t have any questions. And I’m not going to make you talk about them. But I do want to say that I’m really sorry for how badly I hurt you with my stupid Irish temper tantrum.”

Eyes lowered, Joshua reached with tentative fingers to accept the packet of letters. He caught his upper lip between his teeth and lifted his eyes to meet Colin’s. “Colin, you don’t have to…”

“I know,” Colin interrupted. “I know you don’t expect an apology and would never ask for one. But what I did to you back then was just plain wrong.”

“It was a reaction to the emotional pain you’d been suffering for twenty years,” Joshua replied, his voice gentle. He stretched out his hand and his fingers traced a slow path along Colin’s cheekbone. “The O’Malley case brought back all the feelings you had when you lost Kathy. The feelings you’d been suppressing since her death.”

“Didn’t justify verbally beating the shit out of you. You didn’t deserve that.”

“It’s not about that. It never was. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t me you were yelling at. I was just a stand-in for all that you’d been through.” He shrugged and feathered his lips across Colin’s. “I didn’t take it personally, Colin. Even then. I knew there were other factors at work.”

Colin nodded. “Thanks for letting me read them.”

“I’m not sure I did you a favor.”

“No, Josh. I’m glad I did. There were consequences to the actions I took that day, and I needed to recognize them.” He hesitated for a moment, then kissed Joshua’s cheek. “And I needed to apologize for them.”

“Some fucking love letters,” Joshua muttered, his voice husky with sorrow.

“Those letters were overflowing with love,” Colin insisted. He laced their fingers together and fell back against the couch. “Didn’t you tell me once that with great love comes the possibility of great pain?”

Joshua arched his brows and shrugged his agreement. “I prefer to demonstrate my love painlessly.” He leaned against Colin’s body and felt his husband’s arms tighten around him. “Happy fucking birthday,” he muttered and glanced up when Colin laughed aloud.

“Oh, stop it. Those letters didn’t hurt me. Just made me realize how lucky I am.” He shook himself, brows furrowed in aggravation. “I should have listened to my heart rather than my pride and come to Glencoe the minute I had your address. Would have prevented a lot of the pain you went through.”

Joshua grunted his acceptance of Colin’s words, then sat up when he heard Jessica’s voice coming through the house intercom.

“Joshua I’m about to serve. Everyone else, come sit.”

***

The birthday dinner was a joyous success. Jessica’s green and white multilayered cake was a celebration of all things Irish, and Colin couldn’t stop praising it. And when the family sang “Happy Birthday” to him, tears welled in his eyes.

“I’ll get the ice cream,” Jessica said after the song. “You can cut the cake.”

“Wait a second, Jess,” Joshua said, rising to his feet. “I have something to say first.” He drew in a deep breath then smiled down at his husband. “In Jewish tradition,” he began, then bent towards Colin, “which I know you love so well, a birthday psalm is usually read to the honored guest.” He swallowed hard. “The psalm used is the one which signifies the year the birthday boy is entering…” Again, he leaned towards Colin, “…which for you would be your thirty-sixth year.” He lifted a piece of paper, then glanced around at his family. “I’m only going to read part of the psalm because David does tend to go on and on, but to me this is the most fitting part. “And,” he added, “this a modern rendition.” He glanced down at Colin and read:

“God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness nothing is lost;
Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.
How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.
Keep on loving your friends;
do your work in welcoming hearts.
Don’t let the bullies kick me around,
the moral midgets slap me down.
Send the upstarts sprawling flat
on their faces in the mud.”

He laid the paper down as everyone except Colin applauded. He sat, gazing up at Joshua, tears now sparkling on his cheeks.

“I know it’s probably blasphemy to say that, to me, this psalm speaks with perfect clarity about how I experience your love, but that’s exactly how I see it, Colin. Your love and protection are the banquet you offer, not just to me, but to anyone you care about. Your love is exquisite, and I am always, always, always eager to run under your wings. Your love opened my eyes to cascading light, a I hope you do your work in my welcoming heart for as long as you live.” He bent and kissed Colin who slid his fingers into Joshua’s curls. “Ani ohev otcha,” Joshua whispered. “Happy birthday, my magic man.”

Ta`mo chori istigh ionat,” Colin murmured in response, his voice choked with tears.

The family all applauded, and Jessica handed Colin a silver cake server. “OK. Now cut the cake and start putting the pieces on those cake plates. I’ll get the ice cream.”

They ate Colin’s magnificent birthday cake, accompanied by green mint ice cream, then Bracha handed Colin a wrapped gift. “From us,” she told him. “Happy birthday, Son.”

Still feeling a bit overwhelmed, Colin leaned close and kissed her. “Thanks, Mom.”

In the package was a beautiful set of silver cufflinks fashioned as a Celtic knot. “Wow!” Colin said as he examined them. “They’re beautiful! Thank you.”

Jessica’s present was a green Irish wool trinity cap, which Colin immediately donned, before jumping up to hug and kiss her in thanks.

“Spiffy!” Joshua said, laughing. “It looks perfect on you!”

After finishing their dessert, the family wandered into the living room. “Game of chess, bro?” Abel asked Colin as he and Joshua fell onto the sofa, but Colin shook his head.

“Not right now.” He turned to face Joshua. “I need to go upstairs and get something. OK?”

Puzzled, Joshua nodded and watched as Colin got to his feet. “I’ll be right back,” he said, then ambled toward the stairs.

“Where’s he going?” Bracha asked, glancing up from her glass of brandy.

“Dunno,” Joshua replied. “Said he needed to get something.”

The family chatted while Colin was gone, catching up on the latest happenings in their lives, and what they had planned for the future. Every few minutes Joshua glanced toward the stairs, but it was over a forty-five minutes before Colin returned.

“There he is!” Bracha said, smiling as her son-in-law entered the room.

“Took you long enough,” Joshua complained, laughing. “I was about to come looking for you.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Colin said, then held out his hand to Joshua. “Come with me for a minute.”

Surprised, Joshua shot a glance at his mother, then got to his feet and followed Colin as he led Joshua through the kitchen, stopping only to kiss Jessica who was clearing away the dinner dishes, before leading Joshua outside to the patio.

He hit the switch which bathed the area with soft golden light, then sat down on the stone wall which enclosed them, drawing Joshua down with him. For a moment he simply gazed into his husband’s eyes, then he breathed out a soft sigh and lifted Joshua’s hand to his lips.

“Colin, is something wrong?”

“No. Nothing’s wrong. I just have something to give you. Something I wanted to give you privately.” He withdrew a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and held it out. “Here. This is for you.”

Clearly puzzled, Joshua took the paper from Colin’s hand. “What it is?”

“Read it and you’ll see.”

Joshua unfolded the paper in his hands and read:

My dearest husband,

You let me read the love letters you wrote after I broke your heart, and it nearly broke mine to know how much damage my misplaced anger did to the most wonderful man I’ve ever known.

It’s not just that I blew my Irish top. It’s not just the awful things I said to you that day. It’s not just the terrible accusations I made. It’s so much more than that. Chief among my sins is the knowledge that I waited so long to come to you when I knew from the moment you left, that I could never, ever live without you. That I let my fear and pride stifle the voice of my love and need for you.

Josh, I was desolate after you left. I’d been fooling myself for months, trying to fight the feelings that grew more profound and intense every day we were together. Trying to pretend that they were something else. That they weren’t that one thing I feared more than any other: love.

But it was love, Joshua. Almost from the day we met… it was love. I was so lonely back then, Josh. I confessed this to you on our wedding day. So sad. My life was a failure in every imaginable way. I knew no joy. I knew no happiness. My only satisfaction came from those rare moments when I could bring some criminal to justice, but even those moments were overshadowed by the knowledge that there’d be another case the very next day, and that these brief flashes of fulfillment were external events that could never touch the man I was inside. I’d go home to that dreary little apartment and try not to think about how dark and lonely my life had become.

I tried to fight my feelings for you, Josh. But from the very first, being with you illuminated me. Not with bright flashes of light, but with a warm glow of belonging that I hadn’t felt since I was a child. You made me laugh! Me, who rarely ever cracked a smile. Who rarely ever felt even an instant of gladness. You taught me the sweetness of intimacy. Me, who fled from closeness like a devil flees holy water. Your sweet smile. Your gentle, kindness. Your dry, brilliant wit. Your constant, steady presence at my side, flooded my heart with feelings that both healed and terrified me.

You never asked for a thing. I knew you loved me. I could see it in your beautiful, brown eyes. I knew you wanted more. Wanted my love in return. But every time I saw the love glowing there in your eyes, I was gripped by a panic that nearly stopped my heart. What if I offered you my heart and you rejected it? What if I lost you and had to go through that heartbreak again?

So, I ran. I treated you with coldness and rejection. I know how much it hurt you, Josh, and there is nothing in my life that I regret with more bitterness.

Your love is my greatest treasure. You lifted me out of the darkness which had imprisoned me since the day my sister died. You healed my heart when I had long ago given up any hope that it could be healed. You brought happiness and love to a man who had long since turned his back on such things, thinking that they were not meant for him. You filled the emptiness inside me with the warmth of your love. And there are no words which could ever adequately express my gratitude.

I won’t ask for your forgiveness. I know I don’t have to. You understand. You always have. That’s one of the many blessings your love freely offers without me having to do a thing to earn them. Those blessings are just there, a part of the man you are. My love. My life.

I can’t promise you that I’ll never hurt you again. You know me well enough to know what an empty promise that would be. But I do promise you this: we will last forever, and I will love you every day of my life just as I love you at this moment… with all my heart and soul.

I will always be…

Your Colin

 Joshua lowered his hands into his lap with infinite slowness. He stared straight ahead of him, but Colin could hear his breath catching in his throat.

“I thought,” Colin whispered, “I figured… you know, that you deserved a love letter too.”

Joshua turned and pressed his face to Colins shoulder, his body shaking with sobs he tried hard to suppress. “Oh god, Colin,” he breathed out, dampening Colin’s shirt with his tears. “Oh god, sweetheart, thank you.”

“Well, I didn’t mean to make you cry,” Colin said, wrapping Joshua in his arms.

Joshua leaned back, wiping his face with his forearm. “Well, what did you think that letter would do to me, you big Irish doofus?” He swallowed hard and forced back his tears, though his breath still shuddered in his chest. “Now I understand what David meant,” he whispered, his hand lifting to cradle Colin’s cheek as he clutched the letter to his chest. “This is the greatest treasure of my life.”

“Awww,” Colin said, nuzzling against his cheek. “And here I thought my dick was the greatest treasure of your life.”

“It’s a close second,” Joshua said, knuckling Colin’s ribs. “And stop joking. I’m serious.”

“I needed you to smile,” Colin told him lifting his chin. “I don’t like to see you cry.”

“Those were tears of joy, my love. Of happiness and gratitude.”

“Well, in that case…” Colin muttered, then wrapped Joshua tight in his arms and kissed him, hoping that the tenderness of his lips on Joshua’s could convey the depth of the love he felt for this gentle Jewish man. He slid his lips to Joshua’s ear. “I meant every word,” he whispered.

For a long moment they stared into each other’s eyes, then Colin blew out a breath and got to his feet. “And now, my beloved husband, I’m going to give myself a birthday present by walloping Abel in a game of chess!” He drew Joshua to his feet and kissed his cheek. “Care to bear witness as I kick your brother’s weenie ass?”

“I’d love to,” Joshua told him. But as they wandered toward the house, Joshua drew Colin to a halt and turned to face him. “Happy birthday, my love,” he said. “I hope we’re still blowing out your candles when you turn eighty.”

“You can take that one to the bank,” Colin replied, then tightened his hold on Joshua’s hand and drew him toward the door. “C’mon. I want more cake!”

Joshua’s Birthday

Colin settled onto the couch beside Joshua and wrapped an arm around him. “Did you enjoy your birthday, pretty boy?”

Joshua shot Colin a look, grimacing at the pet name. “Pretty boy?” he said, brows still cocked in amused disbelief. “Me?”

“Well, you’re my pretty boy, whether you believe it or not!”

“At best I’m a quirky looking Jew, and yes. I had a great birthday, thanks to you.” He held up his arm, displaying the brand-new watch on his wrist. “With Hebrew numbers,” he said. “How the hell did you ever find it?”

“Searched Google under ‘great gifts to give your Jewish husband’,” Colin replied.

“This is the one that really humbles me,” Joshua said, reaching to caress an antique plaque which lay on their coffee table.

“The minute I saw it I knew it had to be yours,” Colin told him. He leaned forward with Joshua to peer at the decorative tile.

“I’m no Lion of Judah,” Joshua muttered, running his fingers over the outline of the lion.

“But you are, Josh,” Colin objected. “Your strength, your courage, is what got me through the worst times in my life.”

Joshua stared intently at the lion, then silently shook his head. “He’s the symbol for the Tribe of Judah,” Joshua murmured.

“What tribe is your family part of?” Colin asked.

Joshua leaned back, laughing. “I have no idea. Most tribal identities were lost a long time ago. Only a few religious tribes like the Levites have passed their tribal affiliation on.” He turned to Colin and shrugged. “You want me to be from the tribe of Judah?” He asked, with a quick grin.

“You are from the tribe of Judah as far as I’m concerned.” Colin huffed a sigh through his nose, his face quirked into a pensive frown.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh,” Colin sighed again and turned to face Joshua on the couch. “I’m annoyed because I couldn’t get you what I really wanted to get you for your birthday.”

“Why not?”

Colin lifted his eyebrows and smirked. “Blame COVID-19.”

“What did you want to get me?”

“I looked into buying us a trip to Israel.”

“Oh my god, Colin!” Joshua gasped out.

“I would have loved that,” Colin murmured. “Being with you there. Walking through all those Jewish landmarks. Seeing Israel.” He lifted his head and grinned at his husband. “I even planned for us to stay at a Kibbutz!” Then he lifted his eyebrows and shrugged again. “But no dice.”

“Most of them are just tourist traps now,” Joshua observed.

“Not the ones I was looking at,” Colin told him. “They even put you to work. A real, working Israeli Kibbutz.”

“Thank you for the thought, my love,” Joshua said, then kissed Colin’s cheek. “But sharing my birthday here with you in our home is all the celebration I need.”

“Makes me sad that the guys can’t be here,” Colin said.

“I heard from all of them,” Joshua told him. “Trent sent me a porn video that he said reminded him of you.” He shot a glance at Colin. “Believe me. You don’t want to see it.”

Colin nodded and rolled his eyes. “I can imagine.”

“Yeah. It was bad,” Joshua replied, laughing.

Colin nodded, the frowned and took Joshua’s hand. “Do me a favor,” he said, then lifted Joshua’s hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Anything. You know that.”

“Don’t disparage yourself that way. You’re not a quirky looking Jew.” He half-turned to face Joshua and laid his hand on Joshua’s cheek. “I hate it when you do that because, Joshua, you are beautiful.”

Joshua blushed and tried to duck his head, but Colin would not allow it. “Those deep, dark eyes,” Colin said, his voice low and melodic. “That smile that would blind the sun in the sky. Those curls that I can’t get enough of ever.” He wound one of Joshua’s ringlets around his index finger and pressed their foreheads together. “You are beautiful, Josh.” He leaned back quickly. “Now just say ‘thank you’!”

Joshua breathed out a laugh and blushed. “Thank you,” he whispered, unable to meet Colin’s eyes.

“You’re everything to me,” Colin murmured.

“You’re going to make me cry.”

Colin grinned and shrugged. “Go ahead!”

“Don’t want to be ‘wimpy Josh’ on my birthday,” Joshua said, then captured Colin’s lips in a slow, intimate kiss, his tongue caressing Colin’s in a moist, seductive caress.

“Mm,” Colin moaned softly. “Now that’s more like it.” He leaned back and took a quick breath. “Oh! Almost forgot to tell you. I sent your mom a dozen roses today.”

“Why? It’s not her birthday.”

“I thanked her for giving me the most wonderful man in the world to be my husband,” Colin replied.

Joshua stared at him, his mouth open in amazement. “You are the most – the most…,”

“Yeeesss?” Colin drawled out, grinning.

For a moment Joshua said nothing, then he drew Colin close and kissed him again. “You’re my everything too,” he whispered. “Thank you, my sweet Irish love. This is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

“Your presents weren’t that good,” Colin teased.

“Nothing to do with the presents. It’s the best birthday I’ve ever had because I’m spending it with you.”

“Well, it’s not over yet. How do you want to spend the rest of it?”

Joshua smiled and his arms tightened around Colin’s neck. “How indeed.” He kissed Colin again, sliding his fingers through Colin’s thick, sandy waves. “Do I have to draw you a picture?”

Colin stood, drawing Joshua to his feet along with him. “Come with me, Lion of Judah,” he murmured. “I’m no lion trainer, but I have an idea about how to tame you that I think you might enjoy.”

“Of that I have absolutely no doubt,” Joshua replied laughing.

“Happy Birthday, my beautiful love.”

“Thank you, my beloved husband. You make every day happy.”

Valentine’s Day 2020 with Colin and Josh

Joshua Campbell-Abrams moaned out a soft breath, stirring in the comfort of their warm, cozy bed, reluctant to leave it and start his day. Eyes still closed he turned to his side and stretched out a hand, expecting to touch Colin’s solid, muscular frame, but instead his hands found nothing.

Opening his eyes, he saw one red-wrapped candy heart lying on the bed beside him in Colin’s accustomed place. He snatched it up, chuckling. “What’s he up to?” he wondered, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.

“Colin!” he called, as he wandered to the bathroom. “You here?” At the bathroom door he peered down the stairs but saw nothing. “Colin!” he called again, but silence was his only reply. He sighed and entered the bathroom, then burst into laughter. Taped to the mirror was a huge, red, paper heart and on it the words “Be mine!” had been written in Colin’s distinctive scrawl.

After using the bathroom, he moved down the stairs, still seeing no sign of his husband. Sitting at center of their dining room table was a beautiful arrangement of red roses. “Oh, Colin,” he whispered. The card attached to the flowers read: “We will last forever. I love you.” Joshua pressed the card to his lips, his breath catching in his chest with remembered joy. “We Will Last Forever was the song to which they had walked down the aisle on their wedding day, and it would always hold a treasured place in Joshua’s heart.

Holding the card and the candy heart he glanced around. On the coffee table in front of their couch was a heart-shaped box of candy and a card. He sat on the couch and opened both. Inside the card Colin had written: “Timeless. Priceless. Endless. Those are the words that best describe my love for you. Happy Valentine’s day, A thaisce. I love you with all my Irish heart.”

Joshua bowed his head and pressed the scrawled message to his lips, then drew in a shaky breath and looked around. “Colin?” he called. “Where the hell are you?”

“You lookin’ for me?” Colin said, strolling in from the kitchen a wide grin plastered on his handsome Irish face. “I was out back on my machines.”

Joshua gestured to the flowers, the candy, shaking his head, his eyebrows arched. “I’m – I’m speechless.” He got to his feet and walked into Colin’s arms, his own arms winding around Colin’s neck. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Your card and candy and gift are still hidden upstairs.” He leaned back and grimaced. “But I didn’t get your flowers yet. I was going to do that later today.”

“Ahhh, skip it,” Colin growled out, nuzzling Joshua’s cheek. “I’ll share yours. It already smells like a funeral home in here.”

Joshua snickered and pressed his face against Colin’s neck, holding him tight. “Let me go get your gifts and card,” he murmured.

“I’ve already got the gift I really want,” Colin said, rocking Joshua against his body before kissing him tenderly. “But… if you insist.” He released Joshua and plopped onto the couch. “I’m opening your candy!” he called as Joshua disappeared at the top of the steps.

“I bet you bought your favorite kind!” Echoed down the stairwell causing Colin to snicker and nod.

“You’re damned right I did.” Colin muttered, yanking the cellophane off the heart-shaped box of ‘Dove’s Assorted Chocolates’.

He heard Joshua above his head, moving around in the bedroom, then opening the sliding panel to their small attic. “Damn!” Colin muttered, his mouth full of chocolate. “I didn’t think to look there!”

“Close your eyes!” Joshua called down the stairwell. “And no cheating!”

Colin leaned back on the couch, still chewing, and put a hand over his eyes. “Not looking!” He called, then heard Joshua coming down the stairs.

“Keep those eyes shut!” Joshua said, and Colin heard him moving objects about on the coffee table, clearly arranging them to his liking. “OK,” he said finally. “You can look.”

Colin opened his eyes, then widened them in amazement. “Wow!” he said, leaning forward.

“All from Ireland,” Joshua said, sitting down next to him, reaching into the box of Dove’s chocolates to grab his own morsel.

“Josh this is gorgeous!” Colin breathed out. “I’ve never seen this much candy in one place before!”

Joshua laughed. “And it’s Irish candy!” he added, nudging Colin with an elbow.

“And what’s this?” Colin asked, picking up a gift-wrapped box.

“Open it and see.”

Colin opened the gift and gasped in surprised delight. “Josh!! It’s beautiful!”

“Hand made in Ireland,” Joshua mumbled around a mouthful of chocolate. “Your mom helped me find the Irish lady who makes them.”

Colin held it up before his eyes. “Jesus! It’s incredible!”

“You’ll look amazing in it. Now open your card.”

In Colin’s Valentine card, Joshua offered a touching tribute to their marriage. “I’ve fallen in love many, many times in my life, Colin. But always, always, always with just one person – you. Thank you for being my best dream, my best gift, and my best friend. I adore you.”

“Josh,” Colin whispered, then turned to kiss him. “Thank you, sweetheart. My gift to you isn’t nearly as spectacular.” He reached under the box of chocolates and pulled out an envelope which he handed to Joshua.

“What’s this?”

“Well, open it and SEE!”

Inside the envelope was a brochure for ‘Inn at Perry Cabin’ and reservations for a long weekend. “It’s on Chesapeake Bay,” Colin told him, pointing to the brochure, reading over his shoulder. “I got us a suite with view of the water.”

“Oh, Colin,” Joshua whispered, turning the pages. “It’s so beautiful!” He turned to his husband. “You got us a suite?”

“Nothing but the best, bud,” Colin said, nuzzling against his cheek. “The reservations are for this weekend, so I hope you didn’t have plans made.”

“None that I wouldn’t cancel to have this!” Joshua said, still peering at brochure. He laid the papers on the table and turned to face his husband. “Thank you,” he whispered, reaching to caress Colin’s cheek.

“Thank you,” Colin replied. He kissed Joshua tenderly, then stood and drew him to his feet. “Da-da-da-da-da-daaa,” he hummed, pulling Joshua into his arms, swaying with him in time to the song he began to croon.

Joshua felt his eyes burn with tears. No song meant more. No song could ever mean as much. And he tightened his arms around Colin’s neck as they danced to Colin’s lovely voice softly singing in his ear: “We can last forever….”

Joshua blotted his tears on Colin’s T-shirt then leaned back to gaze into his eyes.

“Colin and Josh,” Colin whispered, then kissed him again. “Colin and Josh will last forever. Happy Valentine’s Day. Ta`mo chori istigh ionat, my oak.”

Ani Ohev Otcha,” Joshua whispered in return. “Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my beloved magic man.”

And their arms closed tight around each other as their dance continued.

A Chrismukkah Story – The Star

THE STAR

Colin stood beside their Christmas tree staring up at the star which adorned the top. His hands were shoved deep into the pockets of his jeans and his lower lip was caught between his teeth. The multicolored tree lights cast a radiant aura onto his face as he gazed, making it glow with an unearthly beauty. Joshua drew in a quick breath as he stood unnoticed in the dining room watching his husband. A year ago, he had carried that very star to their home, a gift from Colin’s mother. She had told him the story of how his father would lift Colin onto his shoulder to place that star atop their family tree. She had told him how much this moment meant to the youngster Colin was then and to the man he grew to become.

Colin turned aside. His head was low, and he huffed out an audible breath, his lips pressed into a thin line. He glanced up and spotted Joshua watching him, then tilted his head toward the tree. “Looks pretty.”

“Were you thinking about your dad?” Joshua asked.

Colin tilted his head as he approached, and his eyebrows lifted in a gesture which expressed both agreement and a hint of self-reproach. “I suppose,” he said. “It was always kind-of our moment, you know?” His head dropped once again. “Can’t help but think of him.” He stood for a moment staring down at the floor. “Wish I’d been a better son.”

“Colin, he’d be so proud of the man you’ve become,” Joshua said, laying a hand on Colin’s shoulder.

“You think?”

“I know! A decorated police officer? Working now to become a lawyer? Everything you’ve been through? Everything you’ve accomplished? He’d be over the moon proud of you, Colin!”

“Might mean more if he wasn’t dead,” Colin muttered, then glanced up at Joshua. “And please don’t tell me that he’s looking down from heaven all happy and proud.”

Joshua squeezed his shoulder and breathed out a soft laugh. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Colin leaned forward and pressed his forehead to Joshua’s. “Sorry,” he whispered. “I guess seeing the star threw me into a bout of self-pity.”

“It’s not self-pity,” Joshua said, his arms winding around Colin’s neck. “It’s regret. Every human being on the planet has them, Colin. We’re all imperfect, every single one of us. And if there was a way to put our lives on ‘rewind’ and undo those mistakes, would we really do it? The man you are now was molded and formed by everything you’ve experienced, including those moments you regret. They made you the man I fell in love with. They made you aware of how your behaviors and actions affect others. That awareness is a gift from your father. It’s a part of him that lives on in you. So, my advice is, every time you look at that star say ‘Thanks, dad’, and keep on walking. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do.”

“What’s the price tag for that little speech, Dr. Josh? About Seventy-five bucks?” Colin asked, chuckling.

“Very fucking funny.”

Colin laughed and rocked Joshua in his arms.

“It’s not just psycho-babble,” Joshua muttered. “I meant it.”

“I know,” Colin murmured, then captured Joshua’s chin in his hand and lifted his head. “And I’m grateful.” He kissed Joshua uplifted lips, then kissed them again. “You make me a better man,” he whispered.

“You make yourself a better man,” Joshua replied with a tart edge in his voice. “Me shooting off my mouth doesn’t mean shit if it falls on deaf ears.”

“It’s not every day that I admit to having imperfections,” Colin teased, nuzzling against Joshua’s neck. “So, do me a favor and keep my wimpy-assed confession to yourself.”

“Done… but it’s gonna cost you. You owe me for that ‘Dr. Josh’ comment.”

“Name your price.”

Joshua grinned and tilted his head toward the stairs.

“Oh, it’s like that is it!” Colin exclaimed laughing. He captured Joshua’s hand and tugged him toward the steps, and their bedroom beyond. “That’s one price I’m always happy to pay.” As they passed the tree, Colin threw it a salute. “Thanks, dad. Nollaig shone dhuit.” (Happy Christmas)


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Love’s Trials – Charlottesville and the ‘Unite the Right’ riots.

August 12, 2017 was a momentous day in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the day that the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors marched their way into history. It was also a day that left most of American feeling disgusted, repulsed and angry.

But for the characters in ‘Love’s Trials’ the ‘Unite the Right’ protest was more than a social or political event. They weren’t simply spectators to the terrible events of that day, they were participants. It was a moment in their lives when they were forced to face some of their most deeply felt prejudices, prejudices rooted in racial and personal memories too profoundly painful to ignore. It was a day when they feared for the safety of the ones they love most. And it was a day of responsibility, duty, and service.

Love’s Magic is set in Charlottesville. Much of the Love’s Magic storyline revolves around the University of Virginia and the politics which are a fundamental part any organization as large as a top tier college. Love’s Trials is set in the same locale and features many of the same characters. Consequently, when the ‘Unite the Right’ protests took place in Charlottesville it was simply impossible for me to ignore an incident which was so fundamentally important to our nation’s history and to the lives of the men who inhabit Love’s Trials’ world. It simply had to be part of the storyline.

Colin, as a Sergeant with the University of Virginia campus police force, would be involved in this conflict as a professional law enforcement officer whose duty was to keep the peace to the best of his ability. But at the same time, because he is deeply in love with a Jewish man, he could not remain indifferent to the vile anti-Semitic tone of the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors. Joshua would experience this incident on an intensely personal level, both because the involvement of the neo-Nazi’s awakened deeply-held historical and family memories and because the man he loves is involved in every aspect of this conflict, a conflict which places him in constant danger.

Knowing Colin as well as I do, I knew that he would not only take great offense at the anti-Semitic rhetoric the Nazi’s were spewing on that day, he would also be frothing at the mouth with anger. One of the things he loves most about Joshua is his Jewish heritage. He believes that the deep reservoir of inner strength which he has always loved and counted on within Joshua flows from that genetic, spiritual source. Hearing the Nazi’s hate-filled, anti-Semitic chants would have set his Irish heart on fire with rage.

At the same time, I knew Colin would be required to remain in control of his emotions. Certainly, he would have longed to batter the Nazis to a pulp. But it’s not Colin’s way to use physical force no matter how angry he might be. He is experienced enough at his job to know that such a reaction would solve nothing. Responding with undue force would certainly have provoked a response from the supremacists in which innocent people could have been hurt. He had to try to stay calm. He had to try to react in a professional manner. He didn’t always succeed.

In Love’s Trials you’ll hear Colin talk about the day of the “Unite the Right’ riots. He’ll discuss what he saw and heard. He’ll discuss about how he responded. He’ll discuss how he felt. And he’ll discuss his thoughts on how well he feels the police force, whose job it is to protect Charlottesville citizens, responded to the dramatic events of that momentous day. However, although he was at the center of every incident which took place in Charlottesville on August 12th, 2017, those events remained very much out of his control. His point of view with regard to this emotionally charged day in his professional life is both personal and deeply felt, but he would certainly never claim that they were unbiased. Colin is at heart a deeply honest man. And as such he would be the first to admit that no one who was present at the “Unite the Right” riots that day could have been less biased than he.

Joshua’s point of view regarding that terrible day was also deeply personal. As a Jewish man who lost family members in the Holocaust, he possessed a unique perspective regarding the ‘Unite the Right’ march in Charlottesville. He overwhelmed with disgust and anger that the neo-Nazis had been allowed to march in his city in the first place, and his first instinct was to join the counter protestors and face down the white-supremacists. At the same time, he knew that his presence at the event would make it impossible for Colin to concentrate on his job. Colin’s concern for Joshua’s safety would have been a distraction which could easily have gotten him injured or even killed.

It was a dangerous situation for everyone involved and Joshua had to make a hard decision. Would he join the counter protestors? Or would he stay home in safety. His desire to be part of what happened that day was fueled by his genetic revulsion for anything connected with the Nazis. The grandfather who nearly raised him had been imprisoned in the camps. Both great grandparents had been Holocaust victims along with many, many other family members. And yet his presence at that ugly event would have placed the man he loved in danger, and Colin had made it clear he was vehemently opposed to Joshua being anywhere near the gathering. Any decision Joshua made meant facing a trial that could possibly change their lives forever.

They both made decisions on that fateful day that altered their feelings about their relationship and about themselves. Colin had been a police officer for a decade but he had never before faced a situation where he was confronted with hatred and bigotry this vicious which also posed a very real threat to the one he loved. Joshua had never before faced a situation which forced him to appreciate and accept how deeply connected he was with his Jewish heritage.

In the end, they both made decisions that would affect they way the lived their lives from that point forward. I won’t share all the details either of that day or of what came afterward for Colin and Joshua. I don’t want to ‘spoil’ you for the dramatic events that take place in Love’s Trials. But I can say this: While this incident doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what they’re go through in this book, it does lay a foundation of love and faith in each other that they will certainly need in the days ahead. And it is a profound chapter in what I hope you’ll feel is a profound story.

Love’s Trials is available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited and SOON it will also be available in audio format, narrated by the amazing Walker Williams! Colin and Joshua face many trials in the course of this book, the ‘Unite the Right’ protest being only one. And when the trial is deadly enough, love can lose its way.


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Colin and Joshua’s Tarot Cards!! A peek into their nature.

An interviewer asked me this: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that I spent 15 years reading Tarot cards and doing Astrological horoscopes for a living. Not only that, but I taught the very first online Tarot class in the history of the world and this was loooong before the Internet. It was on a service known as Quantum-Line, or Q-link which was the precursor to AOL. I taught classes there, led full moon meditations. It was great, GREAT fun!

And it was the beginning of what is now, of course, a world-wide phenomenon, the WEB. It was more fun back then because we were involved in ground-breaking activities and making our own rules up as we went… always MY favorite thing to do.

I enjoyed reading Tarot cards. I never saw them as a way to tell fortunes or predict the future. I used them much as a psychologist (Joshua?) would use ink-blots. They’re a great psychological tool, and a lot of fun.

I’ve always seen the Magician as the card meant for authors. The Magician lifts his wand toward the skies to call on inspiration and then uses the tools he has been given to make that inspiration manifest in the world. This is what authors do all the time. Even those authors who have yet to sell even one book have created something magical. They have drawn on the power of the Universe and manifested that power on Earth. I don’t care if it’s a children’s book, a cookbook, or a contemporary gay romance novel like mine… they are all a manifestation of what is most divine within each of us.

 

 

Colin’s card would have to be the Knight of Wands. Wands represents the element of fire, and I don’t think anyone would dispute me when I say that Colin is a man who overflows with fiery dynamism. He is the poster boy for primal energy, inspiration, and just plain life force. He’s enthusiastic and courageous. If you wanted to ‘light a fire under’ someone, Colin would be the perfect guy for the job. And as a Knight of Wands he wields that fire as any gallant Knight would… with courage, passion, and in a way that inspires all of us. Joshua likens Colin to Don Quixote since Colin’s quest in life, at least as Joshua sees it, is to defend the helpless and destroy the wicked. But for Colin it’s more than a quest, it’s the driving force of his life. The Knight of Wands is not someone who could ever back down or take a back seat to anyone. He’s at the forefront of every battle and in the thick of any conflict where his ideals are being challenged. Look at him holding the reins, totally in control of the wildly rearing animal with only one hand. And you can bet he makes sure there’s an audience there watching him do it. The Knight of Wands is a showoff!! He likes attention and applause.

I’ll also add that Colin absolutely sizzles with sexual heat. As Joshua noted from the moment they first met, Colin smolders with an almost dangerously seductive quality that makes him nearly impossible to resist. His is ever the ‘knight in shining armor’ charging off to meet whatever danger or challenge is foolish enough to cross his path.

The Knight of Wands will be your champion. But he can also be the chaotic force that dances through your life, leaving a tangled chaotic mess behind him. He’s a force to reckon with. Just ask Joshua.

I see Joshua as the King of Cups a card symbolized by the element of water. Emotional, healing, and always led by love, this card truly represents the rulership of the heart. But at the same time, he is a King and represents authority and responsibility. In this case, the King can feel responsible for the emotions of others and also be very much in tune with what others are feeling. This emphatic nature helps Joshua understand Colin better than Colin understands himself. During their very first get-together in Love’s Magic Joshua startles Colin by speaking with complete understanding about Colin’s most deeply held secret. See this excerpt:

 

“So,” Colin said, “I have a great heart, huh?”

“One of the greatest, I suspect,” Joshua replied.

Colin looked at him thoughtfully. “I’m afraid I may end up disappointing you, Josh. I’m really not all that noble.”

Joshua frowned and shook his head. “I disagree. There is something innately noble about you, Colin. Something beyond the ordinary. You’re not just a cop doing a job. It’s somehow greater than that.” He drew in a deep breath and when he spoke again his voice was low and warm with meaning. “I was serious when I compared you to Don Quixote. You seem to view your work as a personal mission. A way to right some terrible wrong. Like a knight on a noble quest.”

For a moment there was silence.

Joshua’s eyes dropped. “That’s what I see when I look at you, Colin,” he said. “A knight on a noble quest.” He lifted his head and met Colin’s eyes. “And, yeah. I know I sound like a hopeless romantic.”

Momentarily speechless, Colin’s stared at him, his heart stuttering in his chest, his honeyed-green eyes wide with surprise. Joshua knew no more about Colin than any other causal relationship in his life. And yet, without even realizing it, he had just spoken with eloquence and hair-raising accuracy of the most deeply hidden truth in Colin’s heart. “You’re…” Colin hesitated then drew in a quick breath, “…you’re damned insightful, Joshua.”

Joshua’s empathetic nature makes him a natural as a psychologist. And yet the King of Cups can often find that understanding his own emotions is a much greater challenge than understanding the feelings of others. Joshua suffered severe emotional and physical abuse as a child and the roiling waters of his emotions reflect the pain of those early years. Joshua still struggles to understand and overcome the damage done by those difficult years in his life. The King of Cups can be very introverted. He can internalize his feelings and find it difficult to trust others enough to establish real emotional intimacy.

Joshua’s King of Cups can sit on a very lonely throne. He can isolate himself to the point where it becomes difficult to reach out to others. And he can be totally prepared to flee at a moment’s notice when he suspects betrayal or abandonment may lie ahead. Joshua ran away from Colin after their first fight, convinced that offering his love to his magical Knight of Wands was a hopeless flight of fancy. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in Colin. He didn’t believe in himself.

Colin, as Joshua’s ‘Knight in shining armor’ helps him find healing and peace but only after they both face the inner demons symbolized by their Tarot card. Colin must lay aside his devotion to ‘self-image’ and allow himself to be vulnerable enough to go after Joshua and seek his forgiveness. The cool, healing waters of Joshua’s presence quench the fires of Colin’s inner Knight.

Joshua must forget his childhood fears enough to trust in Colin’s love. He must lay aside the lack of self-worth he was taught in his childhood and come to believe that he deserves the love of the Knight and champion who has swept him off his feet.

Understanding the meaning of their Tarot card gives me insight into the motivation, goals, and needs of my characters! And… it’s a fun way to relax when I’ve spent too much time bending over the computer, writing!!

What Tarot Card do you think best represents YOU?


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Which actors would play my characters in the Love’s Magic movie???

 


Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your book?

Now I’m embarrassed. I always have an actual person’s face in mind for my characters. Always. And usually that face belongs to an actor or actress. It’s just easier for me to write when I can see the character living out what’s going on in my mind.

I had Colin and Joshua completely fleshed out in the character development sheets I always use when I first start writing. I knew them. I knew what they were like. I knew what the liked and didn’t like. I knew their faults and flaws and weaknesses. I knew their strengths. And I had a (sort-of) idea what they looked like.

Colin, of course, was Irish. And I wanted him to look Irish. It’s a lot of who he is as a man and it was important to me that the character’s image in my mind convey the deep love he feels for being Irish. So, I went looking for Irish men. And this is who I chose:

Kill me now! Yes. It’s Jamie Dornan. But… BUT… I honest-to-god had NO idea who he was when I picked the image. He just looked IRISH! I am no fan of Christian Grey, had never read 50 Shades of anything, have never seen the movies, had never seen Jamie in anything. He just looked… Irish!  And, of course, he looked hot as FUCK!

As Joshua said when he first saw Colin on hit motorcycle: “Colin sat astride the bike, his muscular frame wonderfully emphasized by his black leather jacket and tight jeans. In his hand was a helmet emblazoned with a shamrock and the words: ‘Go Irish!’ My God, Joshua thought, his breath catching in his chest. He’s just so fucking hot!”

I know now, of course. Trust me to pick the actor playing the most notorious heterosexual on the planet as the mental model for my gay-as-hell Irish cop.

*sighs*

But… once I saw him I was sunk. He just WAS Colin! So I’m stuck with Jamie Dornan… if such a thing is possible. And, frankly, the Jamie Dornan who was and remains ‘Colin’ in my fevered brain is Jamie as Sheriff Graham in ‘Once Upon a Time’. THAT’ is Colin to me.

Joshua. Again, I went on the hunt for an ethnic look. Joshua is Jewish. I needed a Jewish guy. And there he was.

Again, I had no clue who Adam Brody was when I picked him. I had never seen the OC, didn’t know Adam from Adam in the garden of Eden. I just knew he was Joshua. There were the dark, tumbling curls that Colin drooled over. There was the Jewish strength and calm that he relied on.

In fact THIS is the picture that Colin was looking at when he thought: “Alone in his apartment at night, he studied the only picture he had of Joshua, clutching it tightly in one hand while holding his phone in the other. It was a black and white photo which Joshua had given to him some weeks ago. The photo was beautifully lit and the reflective expression on Joshua’s face framed by his dark, tumbling curls tore at Colin’s heart. He gazed past Colin with dreamy eyes which focused on some distant and unreachable goal.”

So those are the two guys I continually saw in my head as I wrote Love’s Magic. I have to confess… once I’d discovered Jamie Dornan (and I admit that I am really late to that party!) I knew Colin couldn’t have been anyone else. And frankly, having he and Adam firmly planted in my brain made writing Colin and Joshua’s romantic scenes a lot more pleasurable. I mean a LOT!

I often wonder if I’m the only author who uses uber-hot fantasy guys as her mental model when they write. Somehow I doubt it.

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Joshua walked away from Love’s Magic…

I thought long and hard about Joshua before I ever began to write Love’s Magic. Some things I knew on instinct from the moment the character emerged in my mind. I knew he was lonely. I know he’d been abused in his childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father. I knew he was damaged.

Another man might have turned his wounded spirit on others, returning abuse for abuse, but I knew this wasn’t Joshua’s way. He wanted to be healed, but he also longed to heal others who had been hurt as deeply as he had. I think one reason he fell so hard for Colin was that his empathetic spirit saw the pain and darkness that kept Colin’s heart locked away and untouchable.

No two men could have seemed more opposite in nature. What could a swaggering, cocky, self-assured Irish cop possibly have in common with a soft-spoken, reticent, Jewish Doctor of Psychology? But from the very beginning Joshua sensed something deeper in Colin’s nature, something beyond the fiercely independent, I-don’t-do-relationships attitude. He sensed something noble and deeply committed. He sensed a man on a quest to right a terrible wrong.

He didn’t know what drove Colin, but whatever crisis from the past held him captive, Joshua instinctively knew it was a huge part of what made Colin the man he was. He wasn’t under any illusions about the future. Colin had made it very clear on their first ‘date’ that he made no promises to anyone… ever, and he offered Joshua a clear-cut choice: see me on my terms or don’t see me at all.

Joshua tried to do it Colin’s way. He tried to accept his role as the sometimes friend and occasional bed-partner. But Joshua’s self-awareness had grown in the years since he was a shy, awkward boy struggling to believe in his own value.

What I admired most about Joshua was his determination not to let anything cheapen the love he felt for his charismatic Irish cop, not even Colin. He would not allow the love that meant everything to him to be treated as a short-term sexual liaison, bereft of feeling or intimacy, bereft of meaning. He knew he deserved more. He knew Colin deserved more.

Colin’s refusal to admit love into his heart did more to help Joshua grow past the pain of his abused childhood than anything else in his life. He simply loved Colin too much to demean what he felt for him. He found the strength and courage to walk away even though it broke his heart.

Even as the author, I honestly didn’t expect him to choose that route. But any other decision meant agreeing with Colin that what they shared could be minimized. I hated writing those scenes. It broke my heart because I knew how much Colin needed him. But… I had to trust in what he and Joshua were telling me and let them lead me to where they needed to go. I had to trust that they’d be together again if that’s what was meant to be.

Joshua knew Colin could never care for a man he couldn’t respect and who didn’t respect himself. And, even in the midst of his heartbreak, he discovered a new sense of self-worth that brought healing to himself and to his family. And as he walked the shores of Lake Michigan, remembering the nights he’d shared with his charismatic Irishman, he allowed himself to hope that Colin would one day realize that in leaving Joshua had offered him the greatest and most loving gift his heart could give and, perhaps give Love’s Magic another try.

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Why two gay couples? And why assault?


I was asked by someone who read Love’s Magic why I tackled the subject of campus assault in my manuscript. They commented that the subject matter seemed tricky and further added that writing a book which featured TWO unique gay couples seemed like dangerous territory for a first-time novelist. In fact that one aspect of Love’s Magic has drawn more attention than almost any other, which rather surprised me.

I can only say this. As someone who has been an assault victim I felt the subject needed discussion. And since I was attempting to offer as many viewpoints as possible on how victims and the persons close to them experience and deal with such a dreadful ordeal, I needed the perspective of both my couples in order to best explore the full range of possibilities.

But Love’s Magic is also a love story. These four men have each found someone who has become… or is becoming… the most important person in their lives. For David and Nate, it’s an already established relationship that gets rocked to its core when Nate is attacked. For Colin and Joshua, it’s working their way past some incredibly high, deep emotional barricades, particularly in Colin’s case, which make finding and keeping that relationship damn near impossible. And all of these issues revolve around the personal experience each of them has had with some form of abuse.

The four main characters in Love’s magic had to deal with assault and abuse, each in their own unique way, and no one of them handles it quite the way the others do. Each of these four men are stumbling toward their own healing and eventually share the best of what they’ve learned along the way with the other three. I needed every single one of these men in order to tell the story that needed to be told. Each of them saw the issue from a different perspective. But before they could find the healing they needed they each had to learn to see it through each other’s eyes.

I wanted to talk a bit about each of the four main characters.

Colin is the cop. He deals with every kind of assault on a daily basis as the man charged with finding and arresting the perpetrators of these crimes. But it also is a deeply personal issue for him for reasons which he will discuss with no one. There is pain buried deep within Colin that no ones sees, feelings he has suppressed for most of his life. But when Joshua cracks open his heart everything comes pouring out, and not all of it is good.

Joshua was abused as a child. He was physically assaulted by a drunken father who broke Joshua’s arm when he was eight. He knows what it’s like to be locked in a dark closet and left alone for hours with no food, no light, no help. He became a Doctor of Psychology in order to help others who had suffered as he had, but also to find his own healing. He could see more easily into Colin’s heart than he could into his own. And in helping the man he loved find healing, he also found healing within himself.

David was never physically abused. But he was assaulted emotionally and verbally by a cold and critical parent and grew up completely unable to believe in his own worth. These issues haunted him for most of his life and were the primary reason why his marriage failed. His father’s voice was still in his ears, directing his life through constant criticism of everything David did and became. The psychological damage David suffered kept him closeted for many, many years. His relationship with Nate led him to the therapy he needed and at least a partial healing.

Nate was never abused in any way. He had an almost ideal childhood. But he fell in love with a man whose self esteem had been badly damaged by a father’s coldness and constant criticism and had to learn how to cope with David’s resulting insecurities as their relationship grew. When Nate went to the rescue of a student who was under attack on the Tog, a park on the university campus, he was badly, though not critically, injured. The trauma he suffered then was the catalyst which eventually drew all four men together.

No two people experience life in the same way. It’s a unique journey for all of us. And when it comes to dealing with abuse in any form, and there are many, it often takes more than one perspective to lead us to the healing we need. Love’s Magic explores many of those pathways through the lives of four exceptional and dynamic men. I hope you’ll get to know them all. I think their stories will touch your heart.


Reach me at: jjarrell@lovesmagic.online
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Love’s Magic now available! You’ll love these characters!

Love's Magic

I am very excited to announce that Love’s Magic is now available on Amazon.

I have to admit that I fell completely in love with the characters who inhabit Love’s Magic. Meet Colin Campbell, my handsome, dynamic, over-the-top sexy Irish police officer. Colin is a man who refused to ever allow love and intimacy to touch his heart. As a result, no one was more surprised than he when his normal ‘love-um-and-leave-um’ attitude hit a brick wall named Joshua Abrams.

Unlike Colin, Joshua is , steady, introverted, and longing for commitment. Although head over heels in love with Colin almost from the moment they met, he firmly believes this love can only lead to heartbreak. At yet, Joshua proves to be the one man who can break down Colin’s emotional barriers and open his heart to the kind of magic that love can offer.

The freedom-loving Colin never expected to fall in love and certainly had no clue how to handle it. Consequently, when his hot Irish temper created a horribly destructive explosion between them and Joshua flees to his home in Illinois without a word or a forwarding address, Colin found himself lost and adrift.

His struggle to overcome his pride and Irish ego and seek out the love of his life touched even MY heart!I hope you’ll check out Love’s Magic and meet Colin and Joshua for yourself. These two charismatic men personify the idea of ‘opposites attract’, but their love story will touch your heart. Available NOW on Amazon!!

Read the synopsis here!


Reach me at: jjarrell@lovesmagic.online
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 Find Love’s Magic on Amazon!

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