Purple or Green? – Post + Ficlet with Jackie Keswick

March 29, 2016

Purple or Green

I’m Jackie Keswick and I’m happy to be visiting the Dreamspinner Press blog again. This time as part of the blog tour for House Hunt, the third book in the Power of Zero series.

Jack and Gareth had their unexpected reunion in Job Hunt. In Ghosts Jack decided to make a family for himself with Gareth, Daniel and Nico. So far, they’ve dealt with each emergency as it came and now it’s time to settle down and make that relationship work. Find ways to handle all the little mundane things that are part of becoming a couple.

That’s new territory for both of them and, of course, they both bring their own baggage. Gareth’s need to look after people and arrange situations as he sees fit is alive and well. And six months aren’t long enough for Jack to get used to having people in his corner ready to help him out.

Yes, getting into the team spirit is going to be interesting.

Especially for Gareth, whom readers have called a lot of things from a rock to a patient cat herder to downright invisible. I suppose he’s all those things at one time or another. He’s also gorgeous (of course! just imagine a cross between George Clooney and Laurence Nicotra and you have my Gareth), competent, stubborn, loyal and in love with Jack. More so than he expected to be after so short a time. More so, even, than he has admitted to himself just yet.

Jack’s pretty clueless about relationships. He’s uncompromising when it comes to his work. He’s just as determined as Gareth to have things his own way. And at times he appears to be more focused on helping Nico and Daniel than having a relationship. Does that make him difficult to love? Not to Gareth.

Most of the time Gareth sees past the armor and the crusades. He’s there, supportive, confident and determined to help Jack deal with whatever happens. He sees how similar he and Jack are. Jack can’t say no when someone needs help and Gareth loves to look after people.

He’s done it ever since his father was deployed and left him “in charge” at home. Gareth couldn’t stop taking care of people if you asked him to. He’s made an Army career out of it, and now does it at home and at Nancarrow Mining. Jack, Daniel and Nico need someone to make their lives a little easier and Gareth needs to be needed. So it just works.

I love both of Jack and Gareth, of course. But while Jack makes total sense to me – even if he makes sense to nobody else – Gareth tends to surprise me. Gareth grew up with loving parents. He has expectations of what a relationship and a family should be like. I often wonder whether Jack, and the crazy that follows in his wake, are like a bucket of cold water on those expectations. And whether Gareth is just too stubborn to walk away, even when he feels he should.

Few men would start a relationship by adopting two vulnerable, scared teenagers. Gareth does it without flinching, even when it means he has to watch Jack remember his own past every time he steps up to calm and soothe the two.

Jack’s past, and the way he deals with it, is a huge part of what makes Jack the character he is. His courage is without question, but Gareth’s courage is more than a match. He’s there every time Jack doesn’t realize he needs a wall at his back, quietly, patiently, while learning what makes Jack tick. He challenges Jack, pushes him when he needs it… and does a damned fine job hiding his own insecurities.

Oh yes, he has them. They’re just as valid as Jack’s troubles. And they will need dealing with if Jack and Gareth want to make it to their HEA. But that’s a couple of books away. So, for now, let’s take a look at Gareth as we haven’t seen him yet: vulnerable, worried, and intent to make himself as enticing and irresistible to Jack as Jack – with all his crusades and idiosyncrasies – is to him.

I’m glad to report that Jack gets it. Immediately.


Purple or Green?

A Jack & Gareth Ficlet

“Camouflage paint is so much easier to work with.” Gareth scrubbed the towel over his face. This was not going as he’d planned. He’d almost poked his eye out with the stupid pencil. Using the liquid stuff with the brush tip was no better. It smeared like nobody’s business and made him look like a grumpy panda.

How did Jack manage to draw such a sexy thin line? In less time than it took Gareth to unscrew the cap, too. He’d been trying it for the last half hour, and all he had to show for his efforts were a ruined towel and makeup smears all over his face.

It was lucky he had the house to himself for once, or he’d catch it big time from the boys. Daniel, with his recent interest in dressing to get noticed by the girls, might understand why Gareth was trying out Jack’s collection of eyeliners. Nico would pour nothing but scorn on the attempt.

The sad fact was, Gareth was jealous. It was juvenile and stupid and completely unwarranted. Gareth knew that, but he couldn’t change how he felt. Lisa had asked for Jack’s help shutting down an escort agency, so Jack was once more playing bait. And according to Baxter and Lisa, who were backing him up, Jack attracted a lot of attention in the clubs. From men and women alike.

Jack had come home in the early hours, hyped and buzzing, lipstick on his neck and his makeup a smudged mess. He’d looked gorgeous, dangerous… and so enticing that Gareth had been grateful that they had the house to themselves.

And yes, they’d been late for work that morning.

Once the lust haze cleared, though, it left Gareth feeling unsettled. As if he wasn’t quite enough any longer. And that had, by strange, meandering pathways, led to Gareth scowling at the mirror, Jack’s makeup case open on the dresser. He had no idea what he was doing, the ruined towel could attest to that, but he’d dare anyone to call him a quitter.

Maybe it was time to apply a little logic.

Jack’s stash of colors and implements was huge. Gareth had thought that eyeliner was black, but it seemed he’d been wrong about that. Jack had eleven colors of eyeliner in his case – thick, thin, pencil, liquid, brush, gel – and… really. What the fuck?

In the end Gareth chose purple, because it looked appealing, and a deep green that he could see Jack wearing. Deep green and Jack went together like pie and mash, even if he couldn’t explain why.

He ditched the pencils as unusable and too dangerous and was trying to get the hang of the liquid liners with the brush and sponge tips when he found one that looked like a felt tip pen. One side was as thin as a fineliner, the other side broader, more like a whiteboard marker. He used both of those every day, so that should be easier, right?

With grim determination, Gareth set to work once more.

He was putting the finishing touches on his right eye when Jack came home. The morning’s excellent mood hadn’t faded yet. Jack was whistling, calling out, bounding up the stairs… only to freeze in the doorway when he caught sight of Gareth. He lost his smile, too.

“What… are you doing?”

Gareth shrugged. “Trying to make myself a bit more presentable?” he offered, voice hesitant, not surprised when Jack got it right away.

“As if you have need.”

“I thought I might,” Gareth admitted, but then he turned his head this way and that. “So, which one? Purple or that deep green you use?”

Jack breathed out. His shoulders dropped. And then the smile returned.

“You’re hopeless, Flynn,” he pronounced as he joined Gareth by the mirror. “With your eye color, what you want is teal. C’me here.” He riffled through the brushes and pens until he found the shade he sought. “I bought that on a whim a while ago,” he explained as he reached for a pack of wipes that Gareth hadn’t even noticed. “It’s not my color and I had no idea why I’d ever want it, but…it’s perfect for you. Here, scrub your face.” He held out the wipes and watched while Gareth turned them purple and green, idly rolling the liner in his palms.

“There’s no reason for you to spruce yourself up with paint, unless you’ve got your eye on someone else,” he said. “I’m perfectly happy with the man you are. I don’t need embellishments. Besides…”

“Besides what?”

Jack looked uncomfortable all of a sudden. He waved at the case. “That’s camouflage,” he explained. “Armor. Walls made from bullshit and deception. I’ve no need for it unless I’m hiding.”

Gareth spun around on the stool and settled his hands on Jack’s hips. “So this was a bad idea?” he queried while his fingers teased along the edge of Jack’s waistband.

“Maybe… not entirely,” Jack decided after a moment and leaned into the touch. “I never thought you’d try liner, so while I have you here I might as well satisfy my curiosity. Hold still.”

He straddled Gareth’s lap and unscrewed the cap on the teal liner. It took him just moments to line Gareth’s eyes and when he surveyed his work, Jack’s breath caught in a way that Gareth found oddly comforting.

“Fuck… that’s hot,” Jack breathed almost reverently. “We can do that again.” He leaned back a little for a better look. “But I tell you one thing for nothing, Flynn: you are not leaving the house looking like that!”


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