Analyzing Emory by Lily Grace

January 4, 2013

Kyle makes Emory want things he never thought he could have and chips away at secrets Emory has kept locked away for years. Analyzing Emory by Lily Grace, available from Dreamspinner Press.


When a family friend offers him the job of resident psychologist at Chicago’s GLBT Center, Kyle Michelson jumps at the chance to reinvigorate his career, move on from his recent breakup, and get his life back on track. Kyle hopes returning to the familiar territory of his hometown will do him good, but meeting Emory Brenner at a club changes everything.

Anything but familiar, Emory leaves Kyle breathless from the start. There’s just one problem: Kyle wants more than a one-night stand, Emory doesn’t do relationships, and neither man can resist the other. Luckily for Emory, he never has to see Kyle again. Or so Emory thinks until he runs into him while volunteering at the GLBT Center.

Kyle makes Emory want things he never thought he could have and chips away at secrets Emory has kept locked away for years. On the surface, Emory’s recovered from his past: he has a job at a record store and a roof over his head. But putting his trust in another person, having a relationship, means opening himself to more pain—and that is a risk he can’t take.

Length: Novel | Genre: Contemporary| Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

Analyzing Emory– One More Excerpt

January 4, 2013

I want to thank everyone who popped by today. Before I sign-off, I thought I’d leave you with one last excerpt. This is from Chapter 4. Emory and Kyle are each working through their feelings about their one-night stand. Ben is Emory’s best friend and co-worker at the music store.

Excerpt #2 (PG)

“Seriously, dude, this pouting, petulant thing you have going on is really wiggin’ me out.”

Startled, Emory almost dropped the stack of CDs he was holding as he organized the New Release rack. He turned and scowled at Ben.

“I am not pouting and petulant!”

“Riiiight.” Ben crossed his arms over his chest, leaned further back in his chair, and kicked his feet up on the counter. “What the hell did you get up to over the weekend?”

“What do you mean?” Emory shoved a few more CDs back into their correct rack a little harder than necessary before he turned to face his friend.

“I mean something must have gone down this weekend. First you don’t return my calls all day Saturday. Then when you finally do call, it’s to cancel coming over to hang out on Sunday. And today”—Ben surveyed Emory, shaking his head—“you’re just all… weird.”

“I am not and screw you.”

Ben just chuckled, taking no offense whatsoever. “You told me you were going to hit up Spin Friday night. What happened? Did someone actually have the audacity to turn you down or something? Is that why your panties are in a bunch?”

“Okay.” Emory whipped around, and at the last second refrained from winging the CD he held in his hand at Ben’s head. “My panties are in no way bunched, fuck you very much.”

“Ah, there we go.” Ben grinned, pushed his feet off the counter, and launched himself into a standing position. “There’s the sarcastic, razor-sharp wit sprinkled with just the right amount of profanity that I know and love!”

As much as Emory wanted to resist, he couldn’t help smiling.

“And Benji even gets a smile.” Ben’s eyebrows wiggled comically as he swaggered across the store isle. “Seriously, bro, I was getting concerned with all the moping into the CDs.” He slung an arm around Emory’s shoulders, and his face became more serious. “You sure you’re okay?”

Emory took a deep breath and sighed. All kidding aside, Ben was his best friend and really the only person he trusted. “Yeah… no… I don’t know.”

“I take it Friday night didn’t exactly go to plan?” Ben stepped back, removing the handful of CDs Emory still clutched “Come and take a load off. These CDs will still be here in need of being put away after we’ve talked.”

Alternative Scene was currently devoid of customers. Clearly Monday morning was not when people decided they needed to pick up a few new CDs. Emory and Ben made their way back behind the cash register, plopped down in the two chairs that were always there, and propped their feet up against the counter. Ben gave Emory a pointed look, and Emory knew that was his cue to start talking.

“So, I was at Spin on Friday—”

“Planning on picking up your usual one-night stand?”

Emory smirked but gave an affirmative nod. Ben might be straight with a girlfriend, but he was open-minded, nonjudgmental, and understood how Emory operated.

Emory blew out a gust of air. The thing was, nothing had been usual about his encounter with Kyle. He had spent all weekend in a funk trying to wrap his mind around it. He couldn’t understand why the psychologist had gotten under his skin. The sex had been mind-blowing. That wasn’t the problem. It was everything else. Not only had he stayed the night at Kyle’s place, he had actually stayed for breakfast as well. He tried to rationalize it to himself later, that it just would have been too rude to run out before eating, but he knew that was bull. It was a little awkward at first, and Emory hadn’t had a clue how to act, having never had a conversation with anyone post fucking before, but in the end, he had enjoyed the meal. It had been… nice. What had him most on edge, though, was when Kyle asked to see him again. He must be going insane, because for one brief, crazy, nanosecond, he almost thought he had wanted to say yes. Emory still didn’t know what had come over him when he kissed Kyle good-bye.

Ben looked at him expectantly, and after steeling himself, Emory opened up his mouth and summarized his Friday night for his friend. After he had finished telling his story, leaving out most of the naked, gory details, Emory waited for Ben to say something.

“So, you’re telling me that you went home with a gorgeous, smart guy who lives in an amazing loft apartment, who was great in bed, and didn’t just want to fuck you—he was more considerate and wanted to see you again—and breakfast was included?”

Emory opened his mouth, then snapped it shut. He didn’t remember the words coming out of his mouth quite like that.

“I know you have your ‘no muss, no fuss’ credo or whatever about getting involved with people.” Ben waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “But tell me again why seeing Dr. Psychologist-Dreamboat-Great-In-Bed-Brunch-Chef-Extraordinaire again would be a bad thing?”

*****

Kyle spent the weekend unpacking the rest of the boxes that littered his apartment and getting everything arranged just so with almost psychotic determination. Not doing so gave him too much time to think, and for the past thirty-six hours all he’d been able to think about was Emory. Emory’s smile and eyes. Emory’s sharp tongue and humor. Emory naked and writhing on his bed. Emory who had sex but not relationships. Hell, he didn’t even know Emory’s last name.

Kyle broke down the last box with more force than was necessary. Besides the large pile of cardboard he would need to take out for recycling, thanks to his manic cleaning and desire to stay occupied, his apartment was now in live-in condition.

He was exhausted and glad it was already early evening. He would make something simple for dinner and then get a good night’s sleep. He didn’t start work for another week, but he had promised Richard he would meet him tomorrow at the GLBT Center to get a tour of the place and discuss how he would fit into the program. The Center, completed about five years ago, was Richard’s labor of love. He had left his high-powered career in finance, where he had managed large fund-raising campaigns and capital endowments, and used his knowledge to raise money to build a multifunctional GLBT Center for the Chicago area. The inviting, modern architecture and enormous plate-glass windows housed not only a community center with support groups, activities, and programs, but also a shelter for gay and lesbian youth, a free health clinic, and educational and career services. It was truly a one-stop shop, and Kyle was the newly appointed resident psychologist.

After shoveling some spaghetti into his mouth and plopping down in front of the television, Kyle found his eyelids drooping by nine. He grimaced as he stood up, his back protesting over lifting one heavy box too many and spending much of the day hunched over, and made his way to the bedroom. He paused when he got within several feet of the bed. He knew he should change the sheets. He should have changed them Saturday. Steeling his jaw, Kyle stripped off his clothes, leaving them strewn on the floor, and climbed between the sheets nude. He rationalized he was too tired to change them now, and his exhausted brain refused to analyze how crazy it made him that he loved still being able to smell Emory on the pillow next to his.

******

It’s been great hanging-out with all of you today! Don’t forget to leave a comment if you’d like to be in the running to win a copy of Analyzing Emory and stop by my blog, Twitter or Facebook and say hello!

Thanks all!

xo,

Lily

Analyzing Emory– What’s a Release Party without some music?

January 4, 2013

So, Emory, one of my beloved MCs, works at a music store called Alternative Scene. Emory and Kyle’s similar taste in music is one of ways they bond early on in the book.

I’m a huge music fan. And, in this day and age, when most music consumption is through iTunes or Amazon, I long for the days when I could wander into small, quaint record stores and browse for hours. Independent record stores are very few and far between nowadays, and when this story was in the beginning stages, and Emory was becoming a person in my brain (Does that sound weird? I think it does…), it popped into my head that he absolutely had to work at a run down, one-of-a-kind, diamond in the rough, music store that specializes in Indie/Alternative rock.

Since Indie/Alternative happens to be my favorite genre of music (funny how that works…lol), and Emory is quite the expert, he agreed he help me out today and put together a little release-day playlist of some of his favorite bands. I hope you enjoy!

Emory’s playlist

1. Placebo, Bright Lights

2. IAMX, Spit It Out

3. Blood Red Shoes, Don’t Ask

4. Ladytron, Destroy Everything You Touch

5. School of Seven Bells, iamundernodisguise

6. M83, Midnight City

7. The Duke Spirit, Send A Little Love Token

8. Birthday Massacre, Kill the Lights

9. Death Cab For Cutie, Soul Meets Body

10. Placebo, The Bitter End

So, what’s your favorite music? Do you like buying your music in stores or online? Physical CDs or mp3 format? Do tell!

Remember, comment and you’re automatically entered to win an ebook copy of Analyzing Emory. Just be sure to leave your email so I know how to reach you. :)

Analyzing Emory– Release Party and Giveaway!

January 4, 2013

Hello all!

I’m Lily Grace and I’m thrilled to be holding a release party today for my first novel and first release with Dreamspinner Press, Analyzing Emory. I’ll be sharing some excerpts and a few other goodies throughout the day. Anyone who comments on any of my posts today will be entered to win an ebook copy of Analyzing Emory. Please include your email address in your comment so I know how to get in touch with you.

I’m working at the good ‘ol day job today (I mean, seriously, I don’t get a special book release vacation day?!), and though I have several posts all cued up and ready to go, it’ll probably be later in the day before I have the opportunity to reply to comments. So, thanks in advance for your patience!

I’m beyond excited to be part of the Dreamspinner family and to finally be able to share my book with you all today. I’d like to take a moment to thank L.C. Chase for creating such amazing cover art. It encapsulates all the feelings and elements I wanted in my book cover. I think it’s absolutely beautiful, so thank you so much L.C.!

First off, here’s what Analyzing Emory is about:

Blurb

When a family friend offers him the job of resident psychologist at Chicago’s GLBT Center, Kyle Michelson jumps at the chance to reinvigorate his career, move on from his recent breakup, and get his life back on track. Kyle hopes returning to the familiar territory of his hometown will do him good, but meeting Emory Brenner at a club changes everything.

Anything but familiar, Emory leaves Kyle breathless from the start. There’s just one problem: Kyle wants more than a one-night stand, Emory doesn’t do relationships, and neither man can resist the other. Luckily for Emory, he never has to see Kyle again. Or so Emory thinks until he runs into him while volunteering at the GLBT Center.

Kyle makes Emory want things he never thought he could have and chips away at secrets Emory has kept locked away for years. On the surface, Emory’s recovered from his past: he has a job at a record store and a roof over his head. But putting his trust in another person, having a relationship, means opening himself to more pain—and that is a risk he can’t take.

The first chapter can be found on the DSP website or on my blog, so I thought I’d start off today by sharing another excerpt. Enjoy!

Excerpt (PG)

Kyle cracked another egg into the mixing bowl and began to whisk vigorously. What the hell did he think he was doing? He shook his head and blew out a gust of air. He was making a delicious breakfast for his one-night stand, that’s what he was doing. It had been hard getting out of bed and leaving Emory still sleeping. Kyle had woken up with Emory still cradled in his arms and realized how much he missed waking up with someone. It also didn’t escape his notice how good if felt with Emory—specifically—in his arms. God, he looked like some sort of beautiful, dark angel while asleep.

Kyle rolled his eyes and scoffed at his own sappy notions. He considered himself a relatively romantic guy, but that was a pretty gooey thought even for him—especially since that thought was directed at someone he just met. Kyle was used to relationships, not random sex. Maybe that was why he had no idea how to do this. He still wasn’t quite sure what came over him last night when he decided to take Emory home. He hadn’t really expected anything when he walked through the doors of Spin, but as soon as he saw Emory he had felt an incredible magnetic pull. He couldn’t have said no. Not to him. Sure, Emory was perhaps the most beautiful man to ever grace Kyle’s sheets, but there was something else. Talk had been relatively limited, but something about Emory intrigued him. Those soulful eyes—he found himself aching to learn more about what was behind them.

As he cut up some veggies, Kyle couldn’t deny he wanted to get to know Emory better. But how did one go from a one-night stand to dating? Maybe he was even crazy for thinking it. He shrugged. Breakfast was as good a place to start as any.

Feelings aside, the sex had been—amazing just didn’t quite seem to cover it. It would be easy to become addicted to Emory’s perfect, lean body and pert ass. There were a few things about the evening that gave Kyle pause, though. Maybe it was all in his head, but Emory had seemed to shy away when things got too tender or intimate. When it felt like they were teetering on making love, Emory had looked almost panicked, quickly getting on his hands and knees and hurriedly prepping himself, effectively shifting things back to simple fucking. Maybe Kyle was reading too much into it. He wasn’t exactly an expert on casual sex. He refocused on dicing the tomatoes.

“H-hi.”

Kyle somehow managed not to slice his own finger off when Emory’s voice reached his ears. He stood a few steps inside the kitchen. He shuffled his feet and shoved his hands further into the pockets of his now-rumpled skintight jeans from the previous night. His face still had that doughy, flushed, post-sleep glow, and his black hair, now mostly devoid of product, curled ever so slightly below his ears and stood up in one or two odd places around the back of his head. It was all Kyle could do not to drag him back to the bedroom and do further ungodly things to him.

“Good morning. How’d you sleep?” Kyle managed to keep his suddenly raging libido in check and play the part of the good host.

Emory’s eyes widened. “Fine. Your bed’s really comfy.” He gave a small smile and his cheeks seemed to turn even rosier.

Kyle chuckled at that. “Yeah. I know firm mattresses are supposed to be better for your back. But I’ve always liked to sink right in and be surrounded by downy softness.” He smirked. “I can always go to a chiropractor if I have to, but I won’t give up my bed.”

Emory gave a brief smile, and then his eyes flitted toward the door. “Um, well, I better get going. It, um, it was nice to meet you, Kyle.” He ran a hand through his hair and tucked it behind his ear as he began moving hastily in the direction of the front door.

Kyle was frozen for a minute as he processed what was happening. The knife still in his hand clattered against the cutting board, and Kyle followed a swiftly retreating Emory.

“Wait a minute.” Kyle caught up to Emory and gently grabbed his arm before he could reach for the door handle. “Stay for breakfast.”

Emory’s mouth opened and closed, and for a moment he resembled a guppy. “I can’t. But thanks.”

“Do you really have somewhere you have to be?” Kyle gently pushed.

“Well, um, no, I just….” Emory got that panicked look on his face again, and Kyle let go of his arm.

“Don’t worry about it. If you’d rather not, that’s fine. I just¼ I thought it would be nice.” Kyle tried to give him a sincere smile without looking too disappointed.

“It’s not that I don’t want to.” Emory looked surprised at his own words. “I just, I don’t want you to go to any extra trouble. I mean, I certainly didn’t expect….” He trailed off, clearly not knowing how to proceed.

Kyle took a deep breath. He didn’t know how to do one-night stands, and it seemed Emory was a master of them but had no idea what to do the morning after. What a pair they made.

“It’s no trouble. I promise. We both have to eat, don’t we?” One side of his mouth quirked up. “Besides, I’d like you to stay. Really.”

Emory considered this, his lips still parted, his tongue darting out to moisten them. Then he slowly nodded.

“O-okay.”

“Great!” Kyle beamed and took the liberty of placing his hand on the center of Emory’s back, leading him back to the kitchen.

There were bar stools on the far side of the large granite-topped island that held the range top, and Kyle deposited Emory next to one of them. He had already set the table, but it would be easier for them to talk while he finished up breakfast with Emory sitting closer.

“Are eggs okay?” Kyle peered over his shoulder as he shoved the remaining veggies back in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. “If not, I can make pancakes instead. I also have bagels, cereal, toast¼.”

Emory’s expression was one of bemusement and bewilderment as he perched himself on the nearest stool. “Eggs are just fine.”

“What do you want in your omelet, then? I have tomato, onion, green pepper, and mushrooms. There’s ham and bacon. And either feta or cheddar cheese.” Kyle looked at the little chopped piles, making sure he hadn’t missed any of the choices before looking up again at Emory.

He found his morning companion laughing softly. “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“What?” Kyle looked down at the chopped food and back up at Emory.

“I thought you were a psychologist. Do you also moonlight as a brunch chef on occasion?”

Kyle blushed and ducked his head. Maybe he had gone a little overboard. But he loved to cook, and he hadn’t had anyone to cook for in a while.

“I just like to cook. And”—he shrugged—“I’m a big fan of brunch.”

He grinned at the man sitting at his kitchen counter. It was nice to see Emory’s impish smile and wit return. The shock of having “breakfast included” must be wearing off.

“So, what’ll it be?” Kyle wiggled his eyebrows.

“Um,” Emory chuckled. “Tomatoes, mushrooms, feta cheese, and just a little bacon on the side, please.”

“You got it.” Kyle poured some of the beaten egg mixture into the already-buttered skillet. “There’s coffee made and mugs are in the cabinet right above the pot, so help yourself.”

“Cool.” Emory gave him an appreciative smile and slid off his stool in a quest for caffeine.

A few moments later Kyle plated two perfectly formed omelets, added a side of bacon to Emory’s, and carried them over to the table. He placed the coffee pot on a trivet between the two place settings and scanned the table for anything he had missed.

“Wow. This looks so good.” Emory sat down at the table and immediately picked up a piece of bacon with his fingers and took a bite.

Kyle found he was terribly pleased Emory was so appreciative of his efforts in the kitchen. He smiled and sat down himself.

“Do you want juice? I have orange or cranberry.”

Emory swallowed his mouthful of bacon, and Kyle was briefly mesmerized by his bobbing Adam’s apple. “No, thanks. I’m good with just coffee.”

“Okay.” Confident that Emory had everything he needed, Kyle took off his hostess hat and dug into his omelet.

Kyle was amazed how hungry he was this morning. He guessed his impromptu workout the previous evening accounted for it. Images from the previous night quickly flooded his brain, and he swiftly lifted his coffee mug and took a large sip to hide the sudden arousal he worried was written all over his face. He surreptitiously watched Emory eat out of the corner of his eye. Kyle would kill to know what was going through the beautiful man’s head this morning.

My Roommate’s a Jock? Well, Crap! by Wade Kelly

December 31, 2012

During a school year filled with frat buddies, camping expeditions, and meddling parents, Cole and Ellis develop a friendship that turns Cole’s glass-half-empty outlook on its head. My Roommate’s a Jock? Well, Crap! by Wade Kelly, available from Dreamspinner Press.


It’s easy to become cynical when life never goes your way.

Cole Reid has been a social recluse since he was fifteen, when he was outed by his high school baseball team. Since then, his obsessive-compulsive behavior and sarcastic nature have driven away most of the population, and everyone else hates him because he’s gay. As he sees it, he’s bound to repulse any prospective friends, let alone boyfriends, so why bother?

By the time Cole enters college, he’s become an anal-retentive loner—but it’s not a problem until his roommate graduates and the housing department assigns Ellis Montgomery to move in with Cole. Ellis is messy, gorgeous, straight, and worst of all, a jock!

During a school year filled with frat buddies, camping expeditions, and meddling parents, Cole and Ellis develop a friendship that turns Cole’s glass-half-empty outlook on its head. There must be more to Ellis than a fun-loving jock—and maybe Cole’s reawakening libido has rekindled his hope for more than camaraderie.

Length: Novel | Genre: Humor, Holiday, Contemporary | Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

Hidden Away by J.W. Kilhey

December 31, 2012

John and Kurt must risk their hearts to find happiness. Unfortunately, memories and enduring fears can paralyze even the strongest man. Hidden Away by J.W. Kilhey, available from Dreamspinner Press.


Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “No man and no force can abolish memory.” John Oakes and Kurt Fournier are living proof of the truth behind those words. Since the horrors of the Second World War, John and Kurt have been trudging through existence, bleeding from wounds that have never healed. Now they’re at the crossroads of the 1950s: the war may be over, but the battle to find lasting peace has just begun.

John, a PhD student at UC Berkeley and a battle-hardened veteran, floats through his postwar life until he catches the mysterious Kurt secretly playing a university piano. John thinks he may find comfort in Kurt’s company but doesn’t know how to connect with a man who lives a life of such careful solitude. Guilt and regret threaten to cripple their hopes for a normal life. No man is an island, so John and Kurt must risk their hearts to find happiness. Unfortunately, memories and enduring fears can paralyze even the strongest man.

Length: Novel | Genre: Historical| Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

The Measure of a Man by Maggie Lee

December 28, 2012

Kit Porter and his friends, Alec Weston and Robert Warren, must flee or risk capture—or worse. The Measure of a Man by Maggie Lee, available from Dreamspinner Press.


Sequel to The Mark of a Man

After narrowly escaping the sinister plotting of Anthony Arlen’s City Guard and the wrath of the outlawed Sun League, Kit Porter and his friends, Alec Weston and Robert Warren, must flee or risk capture—or worse. With enemies dogging their every move, the friends risk a brief, heartbreaking meeting with Kit’s mother before pushing on to the town of Ludlow. There, they enlist the aid of Jamie McEwen, a rich merchant and old friend of Alec’s, who offers them a way out. But in order to make good their escape, they must first reach Boston, a port city on the other side of the country.

The tense journey across England tests Alec and Kit’s growing feelings for each other, while forcing Robert to confront unresolved guilt over past loyalties and actions.  Just when escape seems within reach, the Sun League closes in, and the three friends face a desperate battle to evade the awful fate in store for them.

Length: Novel | Genre: Historical| Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

When One Door Opens by JD Ruskin

December 28, 2012

Caleb is deceptively normal for a guy who hasn’t left his apartment in three years, and his friendly, caring personality tugs on heartstrings Logan didn’t know he had. When One Door Opens by JD Ruskin, available from Dreamspinner Press.


Logan Sellers’s parole officer has issued three commandments: stay sober, stay employed, and stay out of trouble. At first Logan thought those three simple rules would be easy to follow. But that was before he accepted a side job assisting his boss’s housebound agoraphobic nephew, Caleb.

Caleb is deceptively normal for a guy who hasn’t left his apartment in three years, and his friendly, caring personality tugs on heartstrings Logan didn’t know he had. But hitting on his boss’s nephew is asking to be unemployed. Logan has enough problems with booze on every corner and a supervisor trying to jump into his bed. He doesn’t need to work out how to free Caleb from the anxiety that keeps him in his apartment; he needs to keep his nose clean, attend his AA meetings, and make a fresh start—alone.

If only his heart would get with the program.

Length: Novel | Genre: Contemporary| Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford

December 24, 2012

Despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved. Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford, available from Dreamspinner Press.

There’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

Length: Novel | Genre: Mystery/Suspense | Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

Aria Release Party: Excerpt #3 and Giveaways!

December 24, 2012

Here’s the last excerpt from my brand new Dreamspinner Press release, Aria (Blue Notes #3) ! I’m running a bunch of giveaways to celebrate release day.  Enter by leaving your name and email on my blog.  I will draw a name from the comments for each of the drawings tonight. So comment once, and you’re entered into all the drawings!

One of the drawings is for a t-shirt with the gorgeous cover of Aria (art by Catt Ford) smack dab center. I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes, too. XD The photo, by the way, features the incredible interior of the La Scala opera house in Milan, which appears in a few of the Blue Note Series books, including Aria and The Melody Thief. It’s probably one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world, and along with Covent Garden in London and The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center in New York, is one of the ultimate performing venues for an opera singer. Not surprisingly, opera sensation Aiden Lind, one of the main characters in Aria, sings in all of these amazing places. I guess in that sense, Aria is a bit of my own fantasy come true.

Ever wonder how opera singers manage to be heard in these huge venues that seat thousands of patrons? It’s a combination of things, really. First, the accoustics of these opera houses are amazing. They were built so that a human voice could fill the space without amplification. But not just any human voice. Big human voices (yes, that’s the term for loud voices in opera speak). The kind of voices that sing in large houses like these are ones you could hear from a mile away (not that much of an exaggeration!). How do you “get” a big voice? Most of it is genetics–the way your jaw, mouth and throat are made. But there’s also technique that you can learn to help project your voice, most of which has to do with breath support (singing over the breath, much like a violin bow vibrating across a string). Do it wrong, and you can hurt your vocal chords and end up with vocal “nodes,” which are a bit like a callous and interfere with the vibrations of the voice (and make you sound hoarse or raspy).

Interested in reading a bit more of Aria? Here’s another excerpt for you, from Chapter Two. Hope you enjoy it! -Shira

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

Blurb: Five years after a prestigious scholarship jumpstarted his opera career, Aiden Lind has it all: fame, choice roles, and Lord Cameron Sherrington to share his life with. Maintaining his façade takes effort, but under his poised, sophisticated mask, Aiden is still the insecure kid from rural Mississippi. Then he walks in on Cam with another man, and the illusion of perfection shatters.

Philadelphia attorney Sam Ryan never moved on after his partner died, though he tried. Instead of dating, he keeps himself busy with work—but when he unexpectedly runs into ex-lover Aiden while on a rare vacation in Paris, he’s inspired to give their love a second chance. First, though, he’ll have to get Aiden to forgive him. Because when Sam was still grieving five years ago, he broke Aiden’s heart.

When rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance, it seems like the start of something wonderful. But Aiden’s career has him on the road much of the time, and the physical distance between him and Sam starts translating into an emotional disconnect. If Aiden and Sam can’t learn to communicate, their separation may prove more than their love can bear.

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

Chapter Two

London

“MR. LIND!” the reporter shouted at him as he walked out the side door from Covent Garden. “Do you have a minute?”

Aiden had just finished rehearsing for his London debut in a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He was exhausted and looking forward to a hot shower back at his place. He pulled up the collar of his wool coat and tucked his scarf a bit tighter around his neck. With all the insanity that seemed to swirl around him recently, the last thing he wanted was to get sick and have to cancel a performance. He could see the headline now: Lovesick Opera Star Misses Opening Night.

Deep breath. I can do this. He turned and flashed his best, most confident smile at the woman. Opera singers never got much press attention, but ever since he’d met Cameron Sherrington, Aiden had been on the radar screen. Cam wasn’t only the outrageously wealthy heir to a global hotel conglomerate, he was also a sometime impresario who financed Broadway-bound productions and even a movie or two when it struck his fancy.

“Mr. Lind, I’m Janine Thomas, from the Sunday Press,” the woman said as he shook her hand. “I was hoping to ask you a few questions.”

“Sure.”

He had been expecting the usual “Did you know that the queen will be attending your debut?” or “Are you and Lord Sherrington planning another vacation aboard his yacht this summer?” So he was entirely unprepared when she asked, “Is it true about Lord Sherrington and Jarrod Jameson?”

“What?” He stared at her for a split second, then swallowed hard and fought to regain his composure.

He knew Jarrod. Cam had invited him and about a hundred other guests to a party a few months before at “the castle,” as Aiden liked to call Cam’s family’s sprawling estate about an hour out of London, at which he and Cam sometimes spent the weekend. Jarrod was an Olympic swimmer and recent gold medalist in the European games held only six months before. Lean, muscular body, model good looks. Gay.

The reporter—Aiden had already forgotten her name—thrust a large glossy photograph into his hands. He knew he should hand it back to her, but he was so rattled he couldn’t think straight. The photo was grainy, obviously taken at night. It showed two men entwined and kissing behind a tall iron gate. The kiss was not chaste.

Aiden’s mouth went dry. He knew that gate—the gate in front of the London home he and Cam shared in Bloomsbury. One of the men looked a lot like Jameson, although he couldn’t be sure. And the other man… Aiden was pretty sure he recognized the familiar high cheekbones, the short brown hair that was always stylishly mussed, and the lean, athletic frame that looked so striking in an expensive suit. And well he should. He’d been living with the man for nearly a year.

He shoved the photograph back at her. “No comment.” His jaw tensed as he strode quickly over to the curb and flagged down a taxi.

“Mr. Lind!” she shouted as he ducked into the cab and shut the door. He ignored her and gave the driver his address.

AT NEARLY two in the morning, Aiden heard the front door open and close. He had spent the better part of the past three hours making a serious dent in the contents of a cut crystal carafe filled with expensive scotch. He was drunk, but not so drunk that he didn’t care. He wished to hell he was. He didn’t want to care. It hurt too much.

It was still so surreal, living in this incredible Edwardian house in one of the most expensive London neighborhoods. He had grown up in rural Mississippi in a three-bedroom ranch on his grandfather’s farm. The house had been comfortable but small, built in the late 1960s, when his father married his mother. A wedding present. Aiden had always wondered how his mother must have felt, having her front door a few hundred feet from her in-laws’ home. But if it had bothered her, she’d never mentioned it. Elizabeth Lind was the perfect wife and mother, attending church, cooking and cleaning and raising her two children. His mother’s world was far removed from the one into which Cameron Sherrington had been born—one of wealth and privilege. Aiden still felt like a usurper, a pretender to his current circumstances.

“Waiting up for me, sweetheart? I told you I’d be at the gallery opening late. Lady Billingsley insisted we go out for drinks afterwards, and you know how she is.” Cameron laid his coat over the back of the loveseat, walked over to Aiden, and bent down to kiss him on the head.

“I looked online,” Aiden said, his voice a monotone. “The gallery opening was last week.”

“Checking up on me?” Cam laughed and kissed Aiden again. “I’m sure you’re mistaken.” He walked over to the buffet and poured himself a glass of sherry. “I hardly imagined the party tonight. And it was a dull one, frankly. If Sarah hadn’t been there, I’d—”

“Was he good, Cam?” Aiden got up from the couch and stood in front of the fireplace.

“What on Earth are you talking about? And who is he?”

“Jarrod Jameson.”

The slight twitch in Cam’s cheek told Aiden everything he needed to know.

“Jameson? You mean the swimmer? What would I know about him?” Cam refilled his glass and waved it in Aiden’s direction.

“I know you’ve been fucking him.”

Cam raised an eyebrow. “You’re drunk.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“We can talk about it in the morning, when you’ve sobered up a bit.” Cam gave him a long-suffering look that made Aiden feel like he was six years old again.

“Cam. Shit. You promised you wouldn’t—”

“Shhh.” Cam took Aiden in his arms and ran his hands through Aiden’s hair.

Aiden wanted to pull away, but he couldn’t do it. Instead he melted into Cam’s arms.

“You know I love you. What happens out there, it’s not us. This,” he continued, “here, this is who we are.”

The fire spit angrily, and Aiden watched it with calm detachment over Cam’s shoulder. Cam was right. This was home. He loved this old place with its creaky stairs, wood paneling, painted doors, and beautifully worn oak floors. They had picked out the furniture together, shopping the antique stores of Portobello Road until they found the perfect pieces.

“Cam, I—”

“You’re being paranoid, sweetheart,” Cam interrupted. He ran a thumb over Aiden’s mouth, tracing his lips until Aiden closed his eyes. “You worry too much. You always do.”

Aiden took a deep breath. Maybe Cam was right. Maybe he was being paranoid. The photograph had been taken at night, after all. And he hadn’t been sure it was Cam.

“Come to bed, Aiden,” Cam purred as he licked a line from Aiden’s chin to the sensitive spot under his ear. “And let me show you how much you mean to me.”

“AIDEN?”

Shit. He had missed his entrance. Again.

“Sorry, David. I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

David Somers peered at him over the rim of his reading glasses and frowned. “It’s about time for lunch anyhow,” the conductor said as he stood up from the piano. “How about it? My treat.”

“I… ah… sure.” Aiden had eaten with David before, but he still felt supremely awkward around the superstar conductor whose old-world grace and sophistication were so far removed from Aiden’s humble upbringing. David was classical music royalty, and Aiden was the hick kid with the incredible voice.

They’d met three and a half years before, not long after he’d arrived in Germany. David had taken Aiden under his wing, gotten him work in the larger European houses, introduced him to the best European conductors. David was the reason Aiden was making his Covent Garden debut; in the terms of his contract, he had insisted on Aiden singing the title role. David had even sent Aiden to a friend who had his own line of clothing with one of the largest European fashion houses for a “bit of polish,” as David had put it. David had taught Aiden about good wine and good food. Aiden’s best friend, Cary Redding, loved to tease Aiden that David was his fairy godfather.

When David’s driver let them out in front of a small fish and chips place near Piccadilly Circus, Aiden was more than a little surprised. He’d been expecting something a bit more posh. David was clearly amused to see Aiden’s reaction.

“Fish and chips is an art form in its own right,” David told Aiden in his upper-crust New England accent. “Not everything on your plate needs to be haute cuisine.”

Ten minutes later, settled at a table near the back of the tiny restaurant, Aiden nodded in hearty agreement as he bit into a delicately battered piece of fish that melted on his tongue. “This is incredible.”

David’s response was a knowing but reserved smile. David never laughed, as far as Aiden could tell, and right now, Aiden was thankful for it.

“Something’s on your mind, Aiden,” David said. He never did beat around the bush.

“It’s nothing.” Aiden wiped his lips and tried not to blush.

“I’ve never seen you this distracted.”

Aiden was utterly embarrassed. It wasn’t as if he was going to discuss his love life with someone like David Somers. Why would David even care?

“I am not entirely oblivious to your situation,” David continued, apparently unfazed by Aiden’s silence. “I knew Lord Sherrington’s parents quite well.”

Oh God, Aiden thought. Can it get any worse? He waited for the other shoe to drop. David would fire him now, wouldn’t he?

“That’s interesting,” Aiden said, knowing he looked like a complete fool and reminding himself that there were other jobs to be had. Of course, none of the other jobs he’d gotten since coming to Europe were anywhere near his current gig: performing at the best opera house in Great Britain with the best conductor around, singing the title role in Don Giovanni.

“I simply wanted you to know that if you need anything,” David continued, “I’m here to assist. I have several spare bedrooms at my London flat.”

Aiden’s mouth fell open. Was the man offering to put him up if he left Cam?

David offered Aiden a warm smile. “I put very little stock in the gossip rags,” he said as he tore a piece of fish off with his bare hands, “but I am not so naïve as to believe that there is never a grain of truth to be found between their covers.”

“You… you would do that?” Aiden stammered as David’s words began to work their way to his fuzzy brain. “Put me up?”

“Of course. Aren’t we friends?”

Aiden coughed and choked on a piece of fish until tears appeared in the corners of his eyes.

David handed him an extra napkin with casual aplomb. Does anything ruffle this man? Aiden wondered. Friends? Me and David Somers?

“It would be my pleasure.”

“I… uh… I mean… that’s very kind of you and all, but….”

“Aiden.” David’s face was serious now, his expression sympathetic and kind. “You have far too little faith in your own abilities both on and off the stage. It isn’t my place to give you advice as to your private affairs, but I feel it’s my duty as your friend to remind you that I am here should you ever need my help.”

“I… uh… thanks, David. I’m honored. I mean, I’m—”

“There’s no need to thank me. And no need to speak of it further.” He gestured to Aiden’s plate. “By the way,” he continued, “the fish is far better consumed hot.”

Aiden nodded dumbly and went back to work on his food, knowing the heat in his cheeks was visible to his companion but unable to do anything about it. There was no doubt in his mind that David’s offer was entirely genuine.

David Somers wants to be my friend? It seemed so improbable, so surreal. And yet, there it was.

“YOU were splendid, darling,” Cam gushed as he met Aiden in the front entrance of his family’s estate and planted a kiss on his lips. “Not that I expected anything else, of course.”

Cameron had invited the entire Don Giovanni cast back to the castle to celebrate iden’s London debut. And the orchestra. And the stage crew. Half of London, really.

Cam guided Aiden into the grand ballroom of the estate to a round of applause from the guests. Aiden caught David Somers’s eye, and the conductor raised his glass and smiled.

The place was magnificent. Glittering chandeliers cast flickering slivers of light on the polished marble floors. The ceiling was painted with tiny stars on a deep blue background, the walls paneled in well-oiled wood that shone and reflected blue and white with the crystals overhead. Toward the back of the ballroom, enormous arched doors led out onto a patio running the length of the room. Aiden was reminded of the dizzying effect of a disco ball, only far more ethereal.

A jazz orchestra played at one end of the high-ceilinged room as women in ball gowns danced with men in tuxedos. Aiden had begged Cam for a little party at their own home. He was entirely out of his element here, amidst the titled guests and local celebrities. Cam, however, had insisted that Aiden deserved the lavish celebration, and Aiden, knowing it was useless to argue, had finally relented.

For nearly two hours, Aiden smiled politely as guest after guest congratulated him on his performance. Finally, at the end of his patience and feeling the usual exhaustion that followed an evening of singing, he walked onto the patio and into the damp evening air. The midwinter chill on the breeze helped clear his mind.

It was quiet here, overlooking the formal gardens. Beyond, Aiden could barely make out the copse of trees he and Cam had often picnicked under. Beyond that were the woods where they’d ridden on horseback—where Cam had taught Aiden to ride. Even now, as winter began to weave its tendrils throughout the countryside, it was still lovely. In spring, the trees and flowers would burst into a frenzy of color, each plant painstakingly placed for maximum visual impact. Aiden wished his mother could see this. She’d always loved to tend her garden.

Overhead, a plane made its way to parts unknown, but the only thing Aiden could hear was the wind as it moved through the trees and shrubs. He wondered what it must have been like for Cam, growing up in this beautiful but formidable place. They often spent weekends here in the spring and summer, but it never felt like home to Aiden. He couldn’t get used to the servants who pressed his clothing and turned down the bed at night, or the elaborate breakfasts that greeted them in the mornings with food enough for ten people.

In all his stays at the castle, Aiden had never once met Cameron’s mother. He once asked Cam how often he saw her, but Cam only laughed and pointed out that Aiden hadn’t seen his own parents or his sister in more than two years. Funny, thought Aiden, how he still missed his parents sometimes. But then again, John Lind had made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing to do with his only son. Aiden’s mother wouldn’t defy her husband, although she wrote to Aiden regularly by e-mail. His sister, Deb, had also made the effort to stay in touch, and he saw her once a year at most.

“Aiden!” he heard Cam call from the glass doors behind him. “You must meet Lord Cook and his wife, Audrey.”

With a sigh, Aiden turned and walked back into the ballroom.

AT NEARLY three in the morning, Aiden climbed the back stairs to the enormous bedroom he and Cameron shared. The room, as the rest of the house, was decorated in antiques. The bed was the only compromise in the room. Made of reclaimed wood Cam had told him once made up a wall-sized cabinet, it had been crafted to resemble the other pieces. Mahogany, finely detailed carving. Outrageously expensive. Cam had told him it was French and several hundred years old. Oil paintings of the English countryside hung at perfectly placed intervals on the damask-covered walls.

The party still continued below. It would go on until sunrise, Aiden guessed, but Cam would forgive him for turning in early. Not that Cam would hesitate to tease him mercilessly about being an early bird the next day. Aiden had a difficult enough time keeping up with Cam’s seemingly boundless energy, but after a long day and performance, Aiden knew it was a lost cause even to attempt it.

Aiden shed his tux, slipped into a heavenly pair of silk pajamas Cam had given him as a gift—one of many gifts—and washed his face in the spacious bathroom attached to their room. He reached for the toothbrush, neatly laid out on the glass shelf above the sink, when his stomach rumbled loudly enough for him to hear. He laughed. In all the chaos of the evening, he had forgotten to eat.

He never did eat much before a performance. He was loath to admit it, but he desperately feared burping when he was on stage. Not that he ever had. Still, it was a bit like a good luck charm for him, not eating. But afterward….

Damn. The servants would all be helping out at the party, so it wouldn’t be easy to find someone to bring him a snack. He didn’t want to get dressed again, he was too comfortable. He’d have to get the food himself without being noticed. Aiden smiled at the thought that he knew his way to the kitchen without descending the main staircase. He and Cam had sneaked down to the kitchen by way of the servants’ stairs more than a few times to snag leftovers after a particularly athletic round of sex.

He pulled on a pair of slippers and tied a warm woolen robe around himself. He made his way down the long hallway that joined the east wing of the house with the west, past the enormous staircase that led to the front entry, and toward the back stairs. He had nearly reached the stairs when he heard it—the sound of voices from a sitting room that joined a pair of bedrooms.

“Right… oh, yes… right there. That’s it. Just a little more. Oh… fuck!”

Aiden laughed to himself. He wasn’t all that surprised that some of the guests had made their way up here for a little added entertainment. The servants had been instructed to make the guest bedrooms available to Cam’s “good friends,” which in Aiden’s experience meant anyone who asked to stay.

He quickened his pace, not wanting to eavesdrop. The door to the sitting room was slightly ajar, so he kept his eyes focused on the stairwell so he wouldn’t be tempted to look inside. But then he heard a second voice, and he froze where he stood.

“Damn, but you’re tight tonight, sweetheart. Have you missed me? Have you been saving yourself for me? Because that tight little ass of yours is too delicious—”

Aiden’s gut roiled. He stormed over to the door and kicked it open with such violence that the sound echoed down the hallway. What he saw inside made him sick.

Jarrod Jameson was bent over an overstuffed settee. Naked. Cam, fully dressed, was ramming him from behind, his hands grasping Jarrod’s waist. Later, Aiden would realize that his gaze hadn’t focused as much on the men as on the antique sofa, with its beautiful carved scrollwork and hand-embroidered upholstery. Cam had taught him to appreciate the delicate beauty of just such an antique.

“Get the fuck out of here!” Aiden shouted at Jarrod as the two men abruptly separated.

“Aiden, sweetheart, I—”

“Shut up,” Aiden snapped at Cam as Jarrod picked up his scattered clothing from the Persian rug and ran out of the room, still naked. It was a good thing Jarrod left so quickly, because Aiden’s hands were balled in fists and he was having a hard time restraining himself from punching Jarrod’s face in.

Cam opened his mouth to speak, but Aiden didn’t give him the opportunity. “Don’t fucking try it, Cameron. It won’t work this time.” He turned and left, slamming the door to the sitting room behind him.

Back in his room—their room—a minute later, Aiden threw off his pajamas, pulled on a pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater, slipped on a pair of moccasins and a wool jacket, grabbed his wallet, and headed down the main stairway. He’d get his things later. He couldn’t stay a second longer.

Several guests were milling about the front door, drinks in hand, laughing. They barely looked at him in his street clothes. Maybe they didn’t recognize him.

Or maybe they don’t give a shit.

“I’m taking the Jag,” Aiden told one of the servants. The man looked at him with surprise but complied, returning a moment later to let him know the driver would be bringing the car around. Aiden was on the road back to London a few minutes later.

WHEN Cameron returned from the castle the next morning, Aiden had several suitcases spread around the bedroom and was packing his belongings. Aiden had tried to sleep but had given up in the end, deciding instead to get his things together. He couldn’t do this anymore. How could he have been so naïve? He had stupidly believed the man the first time. But the second….

What’s the old expression? Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me?

God, his chest hurt. His eyes were red from lack of sleep and tears. Ironic that the biggest night of his career would be the worst night for his heart.

“Darling,” Cam said as he looked into the bedroom at the array of suitcases on the floor and on the bed, “don’t do this.”

“Do what, Cam? Because last time I checked, I wasn’t the one doing anything. It was you, doing it to us.”

“Darling, please!”

“Don’t you fucking call me that! You don’t deserve to call me that.”

“Dar—Aiden,” Cam began again, “let’s talk about this. We can straighten this out.”

“Sure. We can straighten it out. I’ll forgive you again and you’ll go on doing what you want, won’t you?”

“You’re jealous. You always were.”

“Cam, for God’s sake! Of course I’m jealous. We live together, and I just caught you fucking some—”

“Sweetheart. Aiden.” Cam walked over to Aiden and took him in his arms. “Don’t do this.”

Aiden did his utmost not to respond to that touch, to the touch that had once sustained him through the ups and downs of his career. It was one of the hardest things he had ever done, not to melt into Cam’s arms as he loved to do.

“It’s over, Cam. I can’t live like this. It’s not what I thought we were about.” Aiden’s voice cracked.

“I’ll never speak to Jarrod again.” Cam’s tone was reassuring. “I promise you.”

“It’s not him. Don’t you understand? You’ll just find someone else. I’m obviously not enough for you.”

There. He had said it. And it was true. Because no matter how much he told himself he deserved better, it all seemed to come down to his own failings. He, Aiden Reuben Lind, hadn’t been able to keep Cameron happy. It didn’t matter how he looked at it. He had failed. It was time to admit it. Time to leave. Time to move on.

“I want you.”

Aiden pulled out of Cam’s arms and walked silently to the bathroom, grabbed his toiletry bag, and tossed it into the suitcase he’d been working on. “It’s over, Cam,” he said as he latched the case and pulled it off the bed.

“What will you do without me?”

The question scared Aiden to death. “I’ll be fine,” he said under his breath. He hoped he sounded more convinced than he really was.

“You need me, Aiden. You need what I can give you. Money. Better name recognition. Work.”

Work. Aiden hoped to God Cameron wouldn’t interfere with his work. Would he do that?

“I’ll be fine,” he repeated.

“You’ll regret this, Aiden. I assure you.”

Was that a threat? He didn’t dare ask. “Good-bye, Cam,” he said. He picked up the suitcase and headed out the bedroom door. “I’ll send someone around to pick up the others.”

Cameron said nothing.

“DAVID,” Aiden said an hour later as he stood on the doorstep of David Somers’s London flat, “it’s good to see you. I hope I’m not coming at a bad time.”

David smiled and opened the door for Aiden, took the suitcase over Aiden’s protests, and led him inside. “The offer to stay here didn’t have an expiration date.” He gave Aiden’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “You can stay as long as you like.”

Aria (Blue Notes #3) is at the Dreamspinner Press website.