THIS-MEANS-WARA Jasper Swinton Novel

by Jane Elliot

Life seems to be going well for Jasper Swinton and Brian Stark: they have fulfilling jobs, a cute kitten, and, despite all expectations, they’re still together after two months. When a harmless prank war goes awry, however, their perfect life starts falling apart – and it doesn’t take long before they’re finding out that actions can have unexpected consequences, and that not every love story has a happy ending …

51,000 words/196 pages

Publication 1 February 2014

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“Jasper Swinton and Brian Stark are among my favorite couples… “
Review by Elisa at Reviews and Ramblings 30 December 2014

“If you like, a fun, fast-paced story with romance and mystery […] this is for you.”
Review by Portia de Moncur at MM Good Book Reviews 6 June 2014

“It was a nice read – I […] enjoyed it, especially because Brian could surprise Jasper when it came to pranks.”
Review by Ami at Boys In Our Books 2 February 2014


“Jasper,” Brian groaned. “Come on. I’ve got a long day tomorrow. You’ve got a long day tomorrow. Can’t you yell at me later?”

“I’m not yelling! I don’t yell!”

Brian growled and rolled out of bed.

“Wait,” Jasper said, taken aback. “Where are you going?”

“To sleep on the couch.” When Jasper moved to get out of the bed, Brian held up a hand and added, “Don’t even think about following.”

As Jasper watched Brian walk out, he felt a lump growing in his throat. He and Brian had small fights all the time – frankly, it was one of the parts of the relationship that Jasper liked best – but Brian had never walked out on Jasper before, at least not since their relationship had truly begun.

Before then, though, Brian had made a habit of running away. It hadn’t worked well for him at first – Brian and Jasper first met when Jasper hit Brian with his car, and it was hard to run away with two broken legs – but shortly after Brian had healed up to full mobility, he’d disappeared completely. It had been months before Jasper had seen him again.

Remembering those first few days after Brian’s disappearance caused the lump in Jasper’s throat to swell up to the size of a boulder. What if Jasper had pushed too hard? What if Brian had finally decided that he’d had enough of dealing with Jasper’s cutting tongue and short fuse and left, this time for good?

It’s not like he wouldn’t have somewhere else to go. Brian was six feet of solid muscle, topped with a gorgeous face and bright green eyes. Every time they went out in public, men and women threw themselves at him. It would take him less than half an hour to find a bed for the night, and most of that would be used up driving to the nearest gay bar and finding a place to park.

Jasper could picture it in his mind: Brian walking right past the couch in the living room to the gym bag he left by the door. Getting dressed quickly while looking for his wallet and his keys. Pulling a sheet of paper off the notepad on the breakfast bar and hunting through the junk drawer for a pen, because he was a considerate person, not at all like Jasper, and he’d undoubtedly leave a note. Just like last time, when he’d gone away for months on end and Jasper hadn’t had any idea if he’d ever see him again –

Jasper scrambled out of bed, jerked on his boxer shorts, and ran for the door. “Brian, wait!”

Brian’s head popped up over the back of the couch. “Jasper? What’s wrong?”

Jasper stumbled to a halt. For a moment all he could do was stare at Brian with stinging eyes, feeling his heart doing its level best to pound its way right out of his chest. “You’re still here.”

Brian’s concerned expression abruptly shuttered. “Yeah, I am.”

Ignoring Brian’s tone, Jasper walked around the couch and crawled into the tight space between Brian and the back of the sofa. Brian did not take this intrusion gracefully. “Jasper, the couch isn’t that big! You’re going to pu – ah!”

With a quick grab on Jasper’s part and some remarkably good reflexes on Brian’s, they managed to keep both of them balanced on the sofa, if just barely.

Jasper cleared his throat. “I was thinking -”

“Really? This is the result of thinking?”

Jasper scowled. “This is the result of you trying to sleep on the couch. I trust you won’t make that mistake again.”

“Certainly not till I buy a bigger couch,” Brian muttered. Louder, and with a sigh, he added, “All right, fine. What were you thinking about?”

Honestly, Jasper hadn’t really been thinking about anything other than covering the awkward question of why he’d muscled his way onto Brian’s sofa. One of the best things about being a genius, however, was never being lost for words. “I was thinking that there’s no way you’re better at tactics than I am.”

Brian groaned. “Jasper -”

“Since you clearly don’t agree, however, I’m just going to have to prove it to you.”

Ominous silence filled the air.

“And how do you propose to do that?” Brian eventually asked in a voice filled with doom.

“A competition, of course.” The more Jasper thought about it, the more he liked the idea. It had been months since his last opportunity to utilize his cunning and strategy in a meaningful act of revenge. This wouldn’t be quite the same, of course, but that just added an interesting element of challenge.

Besides, considering the delightful annoyance sex that had come out of Brian’s birthday surprise, Jasper couldn’t wait to see what a sustained campaign of irritation could produce.

“A competition?”

“Exactly. A contest in craftiness, in which our weapons are our wits. We’ll each demonstrate our tactical prowess through small skirmishes of minor inconveniences.”

“Have you been reading the thesaurus again?”

“Ellen’s making me do this month’s report to the DOD.” To keep you out of my hair and away from the production lab, she’d said.

“And you’re taking your revenge by making it completely incomprehensible?”

“It’s accurate and comprehensive. And if the Department of Defense chooses to hire people with a poor grasp of grammar and a limited vocabulary, I fail to see how that’s my fault.”


Jasper shifted. This couch really wasn’t meant for two and they were veering off subject. “What about my suggestion?”

“Well, just to make sure my vocabulary and grasp of grammar are up to snuff: you’re suggesting a prank war, right?”

Jasper huffed. “If you want to put it in the most pedestrian terms, then -”

“I accept.”

“Really?” Jasper beamed.

Brian looked worried, which made Jasper feel even better. “There will have to be some rules,” he warned.


“Probably a lot of rules.”


Brian blew out a gust of air. “I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?”

“It’ll be fun,” Jasper said reassuringly, though for some reason the words seemed to have the opposite effect on Brian, who whimpered.

Oh, yes. Jasper could see a ton of annoyance sex in his future.

Grinning but uncomfortable, Jasper wriggled around some more, trying to find a workable position on the couch.

Ooof. Ow! Jasper!”

Jasper leaned over the side of the now much-roomier sofa. “Maybe we can discuss the details in bed?”

Brian glared back. “So. Much. Regret.”

This was going to be amazing.

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