Gambling Men by Amy Lane

May 7, 2012

It started with a tweet and expanded to a novel with 60k new words. Enjoy the story that brought Amy Lane to Dreamspinner Press, Gambling Men.

Quent Jackson has followed Jason Spade’s every move in business and in poker since their first day as college freshmen. Eight years later, when Jace finally decides Quent is the one man he can’t live without, he sees no reason for that to change.

But as much as Jace believes that poker is life, no one gave Quent the same playbook. After their first passionate night, the real game of love and trust begins, and Jace has been playing alone too long to make teaching the rules easy. Jace only speaks two languages: one of them is sex, and the other one is poker. Between the two, he needs to find a way to convince himself to take a chance on love—and Quent to take a chance on him. It’s a lucky thing they’re good at reading the odds, because they’re playing for keeps, and this is one high-stakes relationship that’s definitely worth the gamble.

Genre: Comtemporary
Length: Novel
Pages: 220

Buy as eBook
Buy as Print

Tia Fielding’s Day at the DSP-blog!

April 26, 2012

It’s finally here! Don’t know if anyone else is excited, but I sure am! :)

I’m Tia Fielding, if you didn’t guess that already, and I’ve been a Dreamspinner Press-author for almost a year now. I have two short stories, three novellas and one novel out, and at the moment there are two other releases lined up, if not more… (that’s a secret!)

Today, I’ll be posting every now and then about my latest releases, upcoming releases, what inspires me and so on. I’ll probably be talking about playlists–because music is important to me, and of course, I’ll hold a little contest later on, with some neat prizes to boot!

I’m also taking questions and answering them as I go, so please do leave some in the comments, and I’ll get back to you at some point.

So, let’s get this party started, eh?

Here’s the cover and the blurb for my second latest release from March 28th, Something New.

For thirty-five-year-old writer Frank Hudson and his partner of fourteen years, the spark is dead, and it’s time to move on. Frank sets his sights on a sleepy town in Vermont, where he plans to start over in peace and quiet—plans that are destroyed when fireman Conner O’Malley literally blazes onto the scene. To Frank, the tattooed, redheaded twenty-three-year-old and his bright smile are a flash of light in an otherwise dreary life.

But it’s a tricky situation right from the beginning. Frank’s passionless relationship has left him doubting that anyone could ever find him attractive. Conner’s juggling a demanding job and the unexpected responsibility of playing dad to his little brother and sister. Battling their own insecurities, Conner’s demanding schedule, and small-town homophobia is hard work—but sometimes hard work pays off.

And here’s my latest release, Thank My Lucky Scars, that was released yesterday!

When London bicycle messenger Matt Rooney has a run-in with a rich guy’s Mercedes, he ends up housebound with his leg in a cast. Bored, Matt uses his suddenly limitless free time to web-stalk American porn star Brian Enola. What he doesn’t expect is for his witty Tweets to develop into an actual correspondence.

A UK promotion brings Brian to London, where the online chemistry explodes into real-life attraction—but a potential romance is foiled by the forces of distance, misunderstanding, and practicality. After all, Matt and Brian live on different continents. But with the support of their loved ones, maybe they can find the strength to give love a fighting chance.

If you click at the cover, you get to the book’s page at the Dreamspinner-shop.

I’ll be back in a bit, I’m going to get some coffee and figure out what to post next!

- T

Quick Final Note: The contests end… And a few sentences of not-quite-sex from Delsyn’s Blues

January 2, 2012

… three days from today, which will be Thursday 1/5. So if you haven’t entered, there’s time, and if you have, please be patient.

As long as I’m here, a teeny little titilating excerpt from Delsyn’s Blues:

Sonny looked at him and he got warm. More than a little. Sonny’s hair, wet and dark, sending rivulets meandering down his just-cut-enough belly, pooling in his navel and in the hollows inside his hip bones, then soaking into the rough white towel he’d wrapped around and tucked at the waist. Luki’s breath went a little ragged, and he raised his eyes from the spectacle to find Sonny watching him back.

Sonny’s eyes had that look. The one that said “take me, you’re in charge,” but conveyed clearly that he knew Luki was twisted right around his finger. Or his dick. Didn’t so much matter which. Luki didn’t really care who had whom by the balls, so to speak, and he could play too. He licked his fat lips, knowing quite well what that did to Sonny. “Come here,” he said, not so much a request as an offer.

Sonny rolled his eyes, but it didn’t mask the heat rising up his neck. “What, again?”
***

Whatever books you’re spending time with now, folks, happy reading. Au Revoir!

The big red dog—or how readers helped write Delsyn’s Blues, part 2 (Oh yeah, and another contest)

January 2, 2012

Back on June 20, 2011, on this very blog, a release party was in progress for book 1, Loving Luki Vasquez. In introduced my assistant, Boudreau. Here’s one of his pics, for those who haven’t yet met him:

Several readers/party attendees commented on the subject of cats and dogs in general, and I mentioned that I thought Vasquez and James might acquire a dog in Delsyn’s Blues. That led to “name that dog” contest at my Goodreads author blog. Now, Bear is a chow-mix totally devoted to Luki, despite Luki’s best efforts to discourage him. Here’s the picture readers used to name the new, bulky, four-legged character:

And another contest!

My last post was an excerpt. Tell me the name of the boat Sonny was driving, and their destination, and your in the running for ebook copy of Delsyn’s Blues. (If you entered the other contest, you can enter this one, too, but you can only win once, okay?)
Like before, answer in a comment here, or email me direct at lou(dot)sylvre(at)gmail(dot)com. Please enter! I love contests!

A brief excerpt from Delsyn’s Blues (farther along the twisting plot!)

January 2, 2012

(This is one of the softer, gentler, isles in the San Juans, just at nightfall.)

*

Climbing over the gunwale, Luki remarked, “Why did you call this a bucket? Looks like a perfectly good boat.”

“Look over the side, back there.” Sonny pointed.

“Melvern’s Bucket,” Luki read. “Oh.”

“So, anyway,” Sonny said. “Off we go to Mack’s Island.”

Luki had already sat down and started to do his routine weapons check. He tended not to be as heavily armed these days as he had been when they first met. But he still had his favorite handgun and two knives, and of course, a supply of ammunition and nylon handcuffs. He
was taking stock now, making sure everything was where and how it was supposed to be, a job clearly requiring that a cigarette hang out of his mouth. He puffed at the damn thing without using his hands, which meant he had to keep his eye squinted like Charles Bronson in The Mechanic and his face scrunched up on one side—the side with the scar. Sonny hated that he looked damn sexy that way.

“It’s not fair,” he said.

“What’s not fair?”

That something can look sexy and kill you at the same time. He shook his head to dismiss Luki’s question, didn’t answer at all out loud.
Besides, there were other things he needed to have his mind on now. And he hadn’t forgotten that one reason Luki seemed lightly armed was because he, Sonny, still had his other gun. Sonny didn’t bring the subject up, but he was pretty sure Luki hadn’t forgotten either.
Sonny set the boat in motion, having a fair idea of the coordinates and a fair sense of direction. Not more than fair, out on the water, just like he only had a fair ability to drive the damn boat. Melvern had insisted he learn, but… well, it just wasn’t a car. He couldn’t remember the first time he’d lain across a hood wrenching on a car engine, but as far as activities go, cars had always been what he loved best—aside from weaving and dyes and that sort of thing. And now, aside from Luki. Everything to do with Luki. Including staring at Luki, watching him smoke his lungs dry and play with guns. Disgustingly, Sonny wanted to weave him like that.

“I hate being on the water,” Luki said.

“Yeah?” It didn’t surprise Sonny; he just didn’t know why.

“I’ve had not so good things happen around water, you know?”

“Like getting beat up and cut and generally gay-bashed?”

“Mm-hm.”

“And almost drowning while getting blown up in a river.”

Luki holstered his gun and adjusted the position of the leather accessory, took the cigarette out of his mouth, and looked up at Sonny.

Not smiling. “That too.”

Sonny sighed and stepped over to his lover, letting the Bucket drive itself for a moment. He stood in front of Luki, so close he had to
part his legs to either side, which basically parked his sex in Luki’s face. He wished they had more time, but second best would have to do. He buried his hands in Luki’s curls, forcing him to look up. Then he bent low and eased into a kiss, a long, sweet, sucking and sliding one.

After a moment, he regretfully eased off, kissed Luki’s nose on the way by, and stepped back to the wheel. “Very nice,” Luki said, voice huskier than ever. “But there must be an explanation.”

“Now you’ve had something good happen to you on the water. I hope.”

Luki didn’t answer for a moment—which was okay. He absently patted the big red dog, which had been sticking close to Luki since they’d come on board and now leaned into Luki’s legs and stared with him at the gray planks that made up the deck. There was no way to know if either of them saw what they were staring at. After a moment, Luki looked up, chewing his lip, then he let it slip from between his teeth. “You love me, Sonny.”

Sonny nodded.

Luki said, “I love you back.”

An excerpt from Delsyn’s Blues: the Prologue

January 2, 2012

Sonny's Forest


*

DELSYN played the blues, played his frustration and grief away with old songs, heart songs, songs that did the crying for him and let him laugh. Mostly, anyway.

It was hard, and it didn’t get easier. The summer before, he’d nearly died; he’d been long unconscious, and his brain had almost starved for oxygen—lacking the blood that was instead filling the spaces in his joints. He’d surprised everyone but his uncle Sonny James when, despite everything, he lived. Perhaps he’d surprised even Sonny when his brain recovered, worked almost like normal. But his joints hadn’t been so forgiving, and every bend of knee or ankle, every bit of weight to bear meant pain, sometimes as hot and swift as lightning.

He’d just turned eighteen. This wasn’t the way the world was supposed to work.

Del’s world had narrowed down mostly to Sonny’s acres, a beautiful place that he’d known all his life, but even there he couldn’t go wherever he wanted. A wheelchair is useless over rough, soft ground, and crutches worse, dangerous even. He loved this place and hated it for the trap that it had become. His music—his guitar and his mercifully spared hands—helped. Sonny did what he could: drove him up the coast to Neah Bay, into Port Angeles for a movie, into Port Clifton—the nearest town—for Frappuccino at Margie’s. A couple of times, Luki Vasquez—the man his uncle loved—had carried him on his back as easily as if he’d been a child, took him down to the beach, and helped him wade through the low waves at the edge of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

But he hadn’t once been in the forest, Sonny’s forest, the woods he’d grown up in—and that mattered. One night he’d felt particularly lost and frustrated, and after saying goodnight to Sonny and Luki, he’d left the house by the back door and made halting, unsteady progress on his crutches to the line of trees that guarded the thick forest beyond. The smells, cedar and dust and new-formed frost, were memory and real all at once, and Delsyn desperately wanted to be in there with the trees and insects, just breathing the same air. So, placing the crutches carefully where they didn’t sink, following one weak leg at a time, Delsyn went in.

He only made it a few steps before he needed to rest, so he propped his crutches against a familiar stump, a gigantic memory of the old-growth forest that once lived there, still rotting into red dust a century after it had been cut. He settled himself down carefully into its folds, glad he couldn’t see the bugs that were certainly feasting off the soft pulp even at this time of night. By shifting from foot to foot, he could rest his legs, and then he’d leave. But he was glad he’d come. For once, he’d go to sleep with sweet, forest-scented dreams.

He heard a scrabbling at his feet—probably a vole or a shrew, but he wanted to know just what it was that made the sound. “Light,” he mumbled. “I need a little light.” He always had his phone with him even though it was useless for making calls around Sonny’s place, where no signal could snake past the giant barrier of the Olympic Mountains. He used it to play games. He took pictures. He recorded his own music, the blues he loved to play. He planned to add the SD card to the tapes he’d made on an old cassette deck and give them to Sonny for his birthday in May, if he could wait that long. But for now he thought the phone could help him. He slid his thumb over the screen to light it up but soon realized the glow wasn’t enough to see the ground, and he knew he couldn’t bend down close if he wanted to be able to get back up. “Bummer,” he said and was about to slip the phone back into his pocket when he heard voices.

A man’s voice, rough and hard. “You’re an idiot! A fool, and if I’d known that before I got involved in your little retirement venture, I would have stayed miles away. Those twins are devious, worse because they’re stupid, too, and everyone in the life knows that—even their own daddy. You managed to pull them in, as lame as you are; that should have told you something.”

“I’m not sure it was them—”

“What an ass! They practically advertised the location. They’re the reason we had to move the samples.”

“And you’re the one who brought ’em here. Not the brightest, in my opinion.”

Del caught the sarcasm in the words, could imagine the man’s gesture encompassing Sonny’s land: “Here.”

“I know this place,” the first man said—a voice Delsyn didn’t recognize. “No one will look here. All we need is a little time when the owner—and his latest fuck—are absent, and we can move it again. Arrange it.”

“Fuck you.”

“Don’t even, you bastard. You’re stupid, and thanks to your little minions, nobody’s going to touch this stuff until it cools off. We’ll be lucky to move the goods by spring.”

The men were moving now, Delsyn guessed; their conversation became obscured by a rustle through leaf-trash and brush. Then, suddenly, he realized the voices were getting closer, and all at once he felt very exposed, very crippled, and very scared.

One set of footsteps moved back into the forest, but the other seemed to be looking for an exit, and that one would pass right by Delsyn. If Del had been fully able, if he hadn’t needed the crutches, he could have held still. But he had no faith in his body, and panic sent him stumbling toward the edge of the trees. He wanted to be out before the man caught him.

He might be killed, he thought. He didn’t want to die hidden in the dark.

“Hey!”

Too late. Aching to move legs that wouldn’t cooperate, Del shouted “Uncle Sonny!” But he was so afraid, his voice barely stumbled past the fear in his throat. And he was too far away from the house. And Sonny and Luki didn’t even know he was out here.

The voice seemed slimy, seemed to ooze up Delsyn’s spine. “Now, Del, take it easy. You know me. You know I’m not going to hurt you.

All I need is for you to tell me what you think you heard so I can explain. You probably misunderstood. We wouldn’t want you to get yourself hurt, now would we?”

Delsyn tried to answer, hoping he’d be smart enough to talk his way out of it. But he didn’t because he couldn’t. Ever since last summer, when he got upset—good or bad—his throat and tongue locked up, like he couldn’t get the language in his brain to come out into the world. And then….

A blow—no more than a slap, but Delsyn felt the change. Felt the simple knot that had held his damaged brain together slip free. Not in the dark, he thought, and he pushed forward as he fell. With moonlight in his eyes and shining silver on the coastal fog around him, Delsyn began to die.

Later, he knew he was no longer home, knew they had taken him someplace machines could reach him with their long plastic arms. A place to wait. And while he waited, he heard things.

A doctor said, “… very probably will not wake up.”

Sonny answered, “But he woke up before.”

Sonny spoke to Delsyn, sometimes, discussing and scolding as if they were riding in the Mustang on the way to the store. The nurses came in, usually chattering, one of them sounding young and very sweet. Other patients, still able to cuss out loud. Even Luki, singing the blues for him in that scratchy voice when he thought no one else was around. Del wanted to smile. He wanted to touch someone. He wanted to sing too. Then his brain came apart a little more and he dreamed a little farther down in the darkness where it was far too quiet. He entered a tunnel that led to the other side of that line, that fence between life and death. He felt pretty good about it. He’d done the best he could to say goodbye.

And he thought that, after all, dying might have been his own idea.

Vasquez and James Contest # 1

January 2, 2012

About contests…

Not yet had a chance to read Loving Luki Vasquez and want to do so? Read LLV and want to read Delsyn’s Blues? Of course, I hope your answer to one of those questions is yes, please!

Sooooo… I invented a contest, and if you win, you choose the ebook. I first posted this at Coffeetime Romance and More on 12/30 (last year!), and then posted it also at the Dreamspinner Press discussion forum on Goodreads. The competition continues, and I’m upping the stakes and increasing the opportunity, to celebrate release day.

First, Part one, as previously posted:

The prize: Vasquez and James ebook of your choice (Loving Luki Vasquez or Delsyn’s Blues). (There will be 1 winner chosen at random by having a child too young to read draw the name out of a hat. Failing that, I’ll throw the names down on the floor and see which one my cat/assistant sits on or steps on first.)

    To play,

  • (1) go here— The Luki and Sonny Interview
  • (2)read what Luki and Sonny had to say when I asked them questions posed by readers
  • (3)and answer either of these two questions:

What would be Luki’s profession if he couldn’t be a badass?
What is the 1st favorite food Luki names?

Or…part two of the contest, follow the same link, but find out some stuff about Sonny.

Where did he go on a field trip that made him want to be a weaver?
What is first on Sonny’s list of favorite foods?

Extra prize incentive! Answer all four questions and you’re in the running for your choice, either both ebooks, or a paperback copy of Delsyn’s Blues!

To enter, you can comment here, or email me your response at lou(dot)sylvre(at)gmail(dot)com. I hope you find the reading a pleasure, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Covers & blurbs for Vasquez & James (business done then on to the fun…)

January 2, 2012

Okay, here’s a peek at both books, covers and blurbs, and incidentally if you click on the cover images it takes you right to the Dreamspinner Press “store.” The links are to the ebooks, but they’re available in lovely print editiions as well.

(For my next trick, I’m posting about a contest.)

Reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James controls every color and shape in his tapestries, but he can’t control the pattern of his life—a random encounter with Luki Vasquez, ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, makes that perfectly clear. The mutual attraction is immediate, but love-shy Sonny has retreated from life, and Luki wears his visible and not-so-visible scars like armor. Neither can bare his soul with ease. While they run from desire, they can’t hide from the evil that hunts them. After it becomes clear that a violent stalker has targeted Sonny, Luki’s protective instincts won’t let him run far, especially when Sonny’s family is targeted as well. Whether they can forgive or forget, Sonny and Luki will have to call a truce and work together to save Sonny’s nephew and fight an enemy intent on making sure loving Luki Vasquez is the last mistake Sonny will ever make.”

Sonny James and Luki Vasquez are living proof that the course of love never runs smoothly. Ambushed by grief, Sonny listens to a voice singing the blues from beyond the grave. While revisiting the sorrows and failings of his past, in the here and now he puts up a wall against love. Just when Luki chips through that barricade, the couple becomes the target of a new threat from outside: an escalating and unexplainable rash of break-ins and assaults. Thoughts of infidelity rise between them, a threat that may strain their newly mended love past its limits. To come through the trials alive and together, Luki and Sonny will have to unite against enemies who were once friends and overcome crippling hatred and overwhelming fear. If they succeed, maybe then they can rekindle the twin flames of passion and love.”

Preview Excerpt: “The Melody Thief,” by Shira Anthony

December 30, 2011

Here’s a sneak preview of the next in the “Blue Notes” series of books, “The Melody Thief.”

Blurb:  Cary Taylor Redding, former child prodigy and international cello soloist, has a problem:  he’s falling for sexy Italian lawyer, Antonio Bianchi.  Which wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, really, except that Cary’s been lying about who he is since he met Antonio.  If he comes clean, he figures he has no chance of sleeping with the man, let alone a relationship.  But then again, he isn’t really looking for a relationship, is he?

********************

Excerpt from Chapter Two:

Cary awoke in an unfamiliar bed with the muffled sound of voices at the periphery of his consciousness.  “…found him off via Padova.  No identification.  The man who brought him says he’s an American.”

He forced his eyes open and saw the metal sides of the hospital bed, the IV hanging from the pole and where it was taped onto his hand, the light yellow curtains at the sides of the bed, and the white plaster cast on his left arm.

Fuck. His wrist ached, throbbing to a dull beat like an insistent drum.  His head felt like it was filled with jagged rocks.

The last time he had been in a hospital was when he had watched his mother wither and die, her body wracked with pain from the chemo and radiation.  He remembered his own guilt as he had sat by her bed, helpless to do anything.  It had been the final insult, a coda, as it were, to their tumultuous relationship.  He never had been able to do anything right by her.

As his vision cleared, the shadows in the room shifted.  No, not shadows—a man, seated in the corner.  “How are you feeling?” he asked in English as he stood up and walked over to the bed.

Cary studied the other man through a haze of pain killers.  Italian, judging by his accent.  Blond hair, blue eyes, a few inches taller than he, a few years older, too, perhaps in his mid-thirties, and hot as hell.

“Do I know you?” he asked in a tentative voice.

The man looked back at him with a mixture of concern and humor.  “You could say we’ve met.”

“You… you’re the man from the street,” Cary said.  “How long have I been here?” he asked.

“A day,” the Italian answered.   “Perhaps I must introduce myself,” he added, as if realizing that he was being rude.  “I am Antonio Bianchi.”

“C…,” Cary hesitated, then finished, “Connor Taylor.”

It was the name that he used in the clubs.  Or at least it had been, after his agent had bailed him out of jail when a not-so-rainbow-friendly gendarme had caught him—quite literally with his pants down—outside a shithole of a Paris bar.  “What you do with your life off the concert stage isn’t my business,” Georges Duhamel had told him after he’d posted bond, “but you must at least use another name.  I won’t have you toss your career in the poubelle.

When all was said and done (and after he’d had a fake New York State driver’s license made under the name, “Connor L. Taylor”), Cary had decided that he enjoyed being “Connor.”  Unlike Cary, nobody gave a shit if Connor liked to fuck men in the restrooms or alleyways behind rundown bars.  Why would anyone care?  After a few years, “Connor” had become his excuse for the late nights and anonymous fucks—when he wasn’t practicing or performing, Cary was Connor.

“A pleasure to meet you,” Antonio said, after a slight hesitation.

“Thanks,” Cary replied.  “For last night, I mean.”

The broad-shouldered Italian nodded in reply.  “The doctor,” Antonio said, “he says that you may leave when you are ready, but that you have this”—he struggled to find the word—“commozione cerebrale,” he finally said in Italian.  He pointed to his head.  “You know, from falling?”

“A concussion?”  It explained the killer headache.

“Si.  A concussion.  He says you must not be alone for one or two days.  Is there somewhere I can take you?  A person who can look by you, then?”

Cary hesitated.  He supposed he could ask Rowena to stay with him.

“If you wish, you may stay with me,” Antonio offered.

Cary realized with some surprise that the Italian had guessed—albeit incorrectly—that he had nowhere to go.  You shouldn’t be surprised.  You look like street trash. He repressed a smirk at the thought that he looked a bit like one of the street hustlers he sometimes paid for sex.  He wondered what kind of man would willingly take in someone like that, knowing nothing about them.

But then again, it’s not like someone with a broken wrist and a concussion would be a danger to a big guy like him.

He considered the offer for a moment.  It was far more tempting—no, make that Antonio was far more tempting—than returning to his apartment and asking his housekeeper to play nurse and mother.  “I wouldn’t want to impose,” he answered.

“Not at all, Signore Taylor.  It would be my pleasure,” Antonio responded.

An hour later, having spoken with the doctor, Cary was released from the hospital with a bottle of pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and instructions to come back in six weeks to have the cast removed and begin physical therapy, if needed.

Cary’s face was tense as they rode the elevator down to the ground floor.  “This broken wrist,” Antonio said, sensing Cary’s dark mood, “it will make it difficult for your work, no?”

“You could say that.”

“What kind of work do you do?” the Italian asked.

“I’m between jobs now,” he replied.  The truth, although not the entire truth.   His next gig was in Rome in four weeks, and he had been scheduled to teach a series of master classes in Toulouse, France, in early December.

Antonio’s apartment was nearly as big as his own.  The high-ceilinged rooms were tastefully decorated in an eclectic mixture of modern Italian furniture and antiques.  Pictures of smiling children and adults adorned the tabletops and bookshelves.  From the abundance of blue eyes and blond hair in those photographs, Cary guessed these were Antonio’s family.

“You look tired,” the Italian said as he shut the door behind them.  “Perhaps I make dinner while you sleep?”

“Thanks,” Cary answered as he caught a glimpse of a large bed through a doorway to their right.  He rubbed his arm above his broken wrist without thinking and winced.  The dull ache had now become an angry throb.

“May I get you some pills?  For your arm?”  He held up the doggie bag of chemicals the hospital had sent home with Cary.

“That would be great.”

“Perhaps you like to use the telephone while I get it for you?” Antonio suggested.  Cary stared blankly at the other man.  “You know,” Antonio continued, “if there is a person who might…ah—” he struggled to find the word “—worry for you?”

“No,” Cary answered as understanding came.  “I’m fine.  There’s nobody.”

Worry about me? Other than a geezer of an agent and a brother halfway around the world? Justin would care, of course.  They were brothers, after all.  But why bother him and his family?  And Georges—the guy’d have a cow when he learned that Cary had broken his wrist, but only because he’d need to cancel a few months of gigs while it healed?  Yeah, he’d have to tell the idiot at some point, but why rush it?

He thought briefly of Rowena.  She’s your employee.  What does she care if you stay away for a few nights?  It’s not like you haven’t before.

Something akin to compassion—pity, perhaps?—flashed through Antonio’s eyes, but he said only, “Please.  Use the bed.  I will bring you the medicine.”

Cary was almost asleep when Antonio came back into the room with a glass of water and a few pills.  “This will help with pain,” he told Cary.  “I will arouse you when dinner is ready.”

“Mmm,” Cary murmured, repressing a lecherous grin in response to the Italian’s faulty turn of phrase.  It wasn’t all that difficult, really, since he was damn near asleep already and his wrist hurt like hell.

“Blue Notes,” by Shira Anthony, Excerpt #2

December 30, 2011

Here’s another excerpt to whet your appetite- this time from Chapter Two of  ”Blue Notes.”

Note:  Pre-publication excerpt, may differ from final publication

****************
BACK at the apartment several hours later, Jason sat on the chaise portion of the sleek, Italian sectional (another of Rosalie’s sophisticated touches) and checked his e-mail, while Jules prepared dinner in the kitchen. Jules had insisted on cooking, and Jason—knowing that the kid saw this as a way to thank him for his generosity—had obliged. They had stopped at a small supermarket on the way back, where Jason had let Jules select the ingredients for their meal. Now, as the smell of butter and shallots wafted from the kitchen to the living room, Jason pondered whether he should ask Jules to spend the night again.

It’s already getting late, he told himself as he gazed out onto the dark street. Tomorrow, I’ll send him on his way. As soon as he made the decision, he felt better: in control again, as he preferred to be.

DINNER was delicious and quite simple: chicken breasts in a delicate cream sauce, pureed vegetables, a leafy salad with Jules’s homemade vinaigrette and, of course, the obligatory bread and cheese to follow. For his part, Jason had purchased several bottles of wine, choosing the white Pouilly-Fumé with its dry, smoky flavor to pair with the chicken. John Coltrane’s classic jazz album, Blue Train, played softly in the background. But for the fact that his companion was a man, Jason was reminded of the intimate dinners he and Diane had shared when they had first dated. They talked about less personal things this time—of how Coltrane’s style had changed after he’d quit drugs, of trends in jazz and classical music, and of the difference between French and American cuisines. Jules surprised Jason with his understanding of each subject and his wit. There was no mistaking that Jules had lived on the rough streets of the Paris suburbs, but it was just as clear that Jules had transcended his difficult surroundings.

Over coffee, Jules asked Jason about the recent negotiations in the US Congress over the budget, easily comparing the American system of governance to the French parliamentary system. They discussed the latest French political sex scandal, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and its implications for the US military, and the financial crisis in the European Union. During, and even after the dinner, Jules did not flirt with Jason, although Jason found it difficult to separate Jules’s outgoing personality with some of his more flamboyant behavior. Agreeing with little comment that Jules would spend one more night in the guest bedroom, the two men cleared the table, Jason insisting on doing the dishes over Jules’s vocal protests.

The dishes done, they returned to the living room, and Jason settled back onto the couch. Jules pulled out his neon violin case and asked, “Mind if I play a little?”

“You kidding?” Jason replied. “I’d love to hear you play.”

Jules grinned and clicked open the fiberglass case, pulling his bow out first, tightening and rosining the hairs, then picking up the violin and planting it beneath his chin. He closed his eyes to tune the instrument and opened them again to ask, “What should I play for you?”

Jason had not been expecting the question. “I don’t know,” he shrugged. “I guess something that you love to play.”

“D’accord,” replied Jules, his mismatched eyes glittering in anticipation. “Bach. Sonata no. 2 in A Minor.”

The choice surprised Jason, but he said nothing, instead propping a pillow behind his head and leaning further back against the sofa. Jules took a deep breath and closed his eyes once more, gently laying bow to string and beginning the opening phrases with their insistent, rhythmic repetition sounding below the melodic line. The simplicity of the piece was both stunning and heart wrenching. Each phrase built upon the next, rising in intensity and in pitch. It reminded Jason of a prayer, powerful in its stark beauty, and he heard Jules’s soul poured out into every note. And then it was over, and Jason was left sitting in silence, staring at Jules as he had in the club, transfixed.

“Well? What did you think?” asked Jules.

The words woke Jason from his reverie. “That was… beautiful, Jules.” There were tears in his eyes, and yet he could not put into words why the music had so stirred his heart. In that moment, he saw the boy in a different light—no, “boy” definitely was not the right word—the look in Jules’s eyes was anything but childlike.

What are you thinking, Greene? he asked himself. You’re letting this get away from you.

Jules rested the violin and bow on the case and sat down next to Jason. He hesitated for a moment, watching the older man with uncomfortable intensity, then reached for Jason and brushed a single tear from his cheek. For Jason, the touch was electric, and his physical response unexpected.

“Bach always touches my soul,” Jules half whispered. His fingers still rested against Jason’s cheek. “He must have known great love, and great pain, to write something so powerful.”

Jason realized that his own pain must be showing on his face, because Jules, too, looked sad.

“I’ve never been religious,” Jules said, his eyes never leaving Jason’s, “but I played this piece in a tiny church once. It was like God was there with me, speaking through me.”

When Jason remained silent, Jules leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. At a loss to explain the intense emotional and sexual response of his own body and equally unable to stop himself, Jason reached for Jules and returned the kiss. The younger man’s lips tasted of wine and musk, and Jason realized that he was hungry for more.

What are you doing? With this thought, he pulled abruptly away from Jules, stared at him for a moment, then frowned and stood up. His heart pounded in his chest and he felt dizzy. You’re straight, remember?

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled, his throat dry. “I shouldn’t have… I’m tired. I’m going to sleep.”

“Of course,” Jules said, appearing to be just as stunned by their brief embrace as Jason was.

IT TOOK Jason nearly an hour to fall asleep, and even then, his sleep was restless. He could not fathom his reaction to Jules’s music, at first telling himself (as he had before) that his response could be blamed on alcohol and jet lag. And yet he knew that he was only denying the truth: he was attracted to the younger man. In that moment, he had wanted Jules. He had wanted to feel Jules’s body against his own. He had wanted all of him.

It’s not as if you’ve never considered what it might be like with a man.

The vague memory of Robbie Jansen’s blue eyes, the feel of the other boy’s chest under his fingers, a high school party and the drunken hand job afterward in a friend’s basement came to mind. It had felt damn good, but then it hadn’t happened again, either. It had just been easier to be with women—they had always been plentiful and eager. Still, he couldn’t help but recall the feel of his lips on Jules’s and the scent of his skin.

Damn, he smelled good.

At last his mind slipped into sleep, succumbing to his body’s deep exhaustion.