Justin Clancy is counting on his new invention to make the holiday season bright for his financially struggling family. With a chime guaranteed to sexually arouse any adult, Tingle Bells are the perfect stocking stuffer -- until a cruel hex turns those sexy sounds into ear-splitting croaks. Far more adept at practical sciences than witchcraft, Justin knows he needs expert help fast or the Clancys' Christmas will go down the tubes.
Trust-fund-wealthy Ramon Ramirez is a private eye certified for metaphysical investigations. He's also a long-time loner who wishes for connection. Sparks fly between him and Justin the moment they meet, and Ramon falls for Justin -- and his whole family. But neither man is quite ready to give up his heart to the other. Ramon has to work on cracking his solitary armor, and the self-conscious Justin isn't so sure his new man isn't just slumming -- or pitying him.
In the midst of grappling with an eccentric family feud, mangled bells and their own personal baggage, Justin and Ramon vow to make things right...and stir up a little magic of their own.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Tingle Bells by Mardi Ballou
Ramon had to work like a demon to get through enough of his current workload to fit in the new case. But he'd been intrigued when the guy mentioned he'd found Ramon's name in the Rainbow Directory. His cock twitched, though he reminded himself not all guys who consulted the directory were gay. Still chances were good, or at least reasonable. He'd liked the sound of Justin Clancy's voice.
The client's interest in Ramon's metaphysical detection services also amped up his anticipation. Ramon had studied to get certified for metaphysical detection the year before but hadn't been called on to use those skills too often. He looked forward to the challenge.
But what really hooked Ramon was when Justin mentioned his family. Ramon was for all practical purposes a loner who'd never enjoyed the pleasures of being part of a family. He was also a sucker for the kind of happiness and unity he imagined most families shared. Anything he could do in the name of doing good for a family zapped him straight to the heart.
Now if Justin Clancy, who had a family who needed the investigator's help, also turned out to be sexy and available, Ramon might start believing in Santa Claus.
Ramon mumbled a thank you to the man in the red suit when Justin burst into his office five minutes early for his appointment. Of course, he couldn't take anything for granted. But if Santa and his elves really meant to leave him a Christmas gift that year, Ramon wouldn't at all mind finding this guy naked under his Christmas tree with a bow tied around his middle.
The two men shook hands across the desk, and the electricity nearly jolted Ramon a foot off the floor. Talk about instant hard-on. Ramon sat down behind his desk and invited Justin to sit and start talking. He watched with complete attention as the tall, extremely buff man bypassed the guest chair and paced and gestured his way through the story of what happened to the Tingle Bells. According to Justin, his phone and email were crackling with messages from merchants who threatened to dump the offending bells if he didn't do something to restore their correct sound immediately.
If Ramon hadn't been so adept at multitasking, the vision of Justin's butt in his tight, worn jeans would have distracted him from the man's words. As it was, Ramon was in dire danger of whiplash from trying to watch. Then there was the hard-on crying out for attention. "What have you told them?"
"Not much," Justin muttered, "because I don't know exactly what to say. I'm trying to get the vendors to give us some operating space, which they're not too amenable to this time of the year. But if they dump the Tingle Bells, Clancy's Fancies will be dead meat. That would spell finito to my professional dreams and throw my family to the wolves."
Family. There it was again. Ramon had to help them. He'd feel like that even if he wasn't drooling over Justin. "Look, man, I've got to warn you. I'm kind of new at metaphysical detection."
"Your ad says you're certified in that area."
Ramon nodded. "I've studied to get certified, and I passed all the requirements, but I haven't had lots of practice. But look. Let's put our heads together here. With your background and my professional knowledge, I think we can come up with something solid that will help. I don't want to see your family's celebrations ruined." Ramon would have liked to do some celebrating of his own with Justin, who had the dark good looks that were called Black Irish. I'd bet a Spaniard must have gotten to one of your grandmothers, he thought, admiring Justin's Mediterranean skin and hair--and his big, startling blue eyes. Ramon squirmed in his chair.
Justin, clearly in panic mode, perched his gorgeous butt at the edge of a chair. "I'll do whatever I can to make this work. If we don't save the Tingle Bells, I'll be so far up shit creek, a paddle won't help." He sprang out of his seat and began pacing again. If they harnessed the nervous energy Justin was putting out, Ramon figured they could probably power all of Princeton's holiday lights for the month of December.
Clear thinking was not usually such a challenge for Ramon. But Justin was about to go into a meltdown in his office. If he had to melt, Ramon could think of a lot more desirable ways to bring that about. "Sit," he commanded. "We'll find a way. I'll help you."
Justin exhaled hard and fell back into the chair as if his bones had just dissolved. "You've got my undying gratitude and that of all the other Clancys. Hell, man, you're about to save Christmas, Solstice, Chanukah, Kwanzaa--every holiday up to and including Chinese New Year."
"Prompt payment of my high but justifiable fees will do."
For the first time since he'd come into Ramon's office, Justin flashed his smile. Full sensuous lips opened to reveal perfect white teeth. If Ramon hadn't been a goner before, he was now. He crossed his legs under the desk and forced himself to concentrate on business. "So give me details about the product."
Justin described his Tingle Bells, going into technicalities that almost had Ramon's eyes glazing over. But he listened carefully, hoping for some detail that would clarify how to proceed.
"Aphrodisiac bells, huh?" Ramon growled hoarsely.
Justin grinned. "Yeah. Luckily an early prototype I worked from escaped the ruin, but it's the only set of bells that did. Unfortunately, the sound these make is just a fractional sample of the effect the final product has, but this can give you an idea." He shook the strip of bells, and Ramon's erection turned nearly painful.
"That's only a sample? Where can I get the real thing?"