*Yes*–a steamy excerpt (rated adult!)

July 18, 2012

The image above is a bit of the beautiful land along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If you’ve been following Luki and Sonny, you’ll know that Luki has adopted Sonny’s home as his, and Sonny’s home is situated on the shores of the Strait. Though this is perhaps a rockier shore than Sonny’s, it’s close enough, and beautiful enough, so that we can use it to set the scene for the beginning of this little tidbit, which happens on a day when Luki is feeling lots better than he has for a while…

Sonny walked out of the house carrying an empty basket, planning to take the
sheets and blankets off the line. He had dyed and woven the sheets himself,
heavy winter silk for this time of year, as a gift for Luki, and for himself,
too. He loved them best when the sun shone for a day and he could dry them
outside. They tossed like brilliant flags for hours, and when he put them on the
bed they smelled of the wind. But on the way to his task, he caught sight of
Luki practicing Tai Chi in the wet sand at the edge of the waves. He set the
basket near the door and changed course, heading for his favorite drift log.
Once there he stripped his shirt to feel the sun on his skin and sat to watch
his lover, his partner, his heart’s precious desire dance in the cooling fall
afternoon.

“As beautiful as ever,” he said aloud. Silently he added, as beautiful as
`before’. He steered his thoughts away from defining `before,’ and he didn’t
stop to consider whether, in a physical way, Luki really was just as beautiful.
It didn’t matter. Luki remained the most glorious person alive, for him. And
Sonny wanted him. His nostrils flared at the thought of Luki’s skin sliding
against his own.

He wasn’t starved for sex, by any means. Over the past weeks, on the days Luki
felt okay, they’d made love sometimes. But the feeling, the tone and timbre of
it had changed in some way that was so elusive Sonny couldn’t even weave the
feelings into thoughts. Not that he wanted to. He struggled, in fact, not to
think about it, not to notice that it was always him that initiated sex, that
Luki’s involvement felt subtly like compliance, that though they shared their
bodies, though their orgasms sometimes grew fierce, to Sonny it felt a little
like masturbation.

But when Luki finished the Tai Chi form, stretched up toward the sky, and turned
to catch his eye, Sonny knew something was about to begin, and it would be
different. It would be dangerous and safe and sweet all at once, as only Luki
could make it. Because Luki had that look, that deceptively icy challenge that
was his version of come-hither. A call that always scared Sonny just a little
bit, a call he couldn’t, would never want to resist. The one outward sign of the
heat Sonny knew lay just on the other side of Luki’s eyes was his white teeth
and sweet pink tongue sliding over his lower lip. Luki came closer, stopped a
long two strides outside Sonny’s reach. An outrageously, but oh-so-sweetly cruel
distance, so sensual Sonny’s breath flooded away and left him open-mouthed and
gasping.

All this before even a touch.

Sonny rose and moved forward locked into Luki’s ice blue eyes, relieved and even
more turned on to see that old, secret smile hiding behind them. Luki gathered
up Sonny’s long, heavy hair, wrapped it around his hand, and pulled Sonny
closer. Luki had done just that very thing the first time they made love, years
ago. Now, as then, it swept Sonny into passion he would have been hard pressed
to control.

Thank the saints no need for that arose. They kissed, inched closer, kissed
harder—tongues twining, lips pressing and sliding. Chest to chest, their hard
pricks pressed together and strained against the clothing that separated them.
Mouths still locked together, Sonny made small, pleading noises in his throat.
And when Luki’s mouth left his to kiss and suck and nip at his neck, Sonny said
it out loud. “Please, Luki?”

Luki kissed his way back to Sonny’s lips then looked him in the eye, separated
only by the length of their noses. “Right here, baby,” he chuckled, “or in the
house?”

Sonny, ever practical, realized it was a very good question, took a look around
at the coarse sand, twigs, and splinters. “Yeah,” he said, “in the house, I
think.” As he started to walk that way, though, Luki’s arms, feet, lips, and
other body parts kept interfering, and when he got to the clothesline and the
dry sheets and blankets he’d come out to collect, he tripped into them,
hopelessly tangled. “You did that on purpose,” he said against Luki’s temple.

“Maybe,” Luki answered, and slew all Sonny’s resistance—such as it was—by simply
dragging the flat of his own tongue across Sonny’s open lips.

Thank god for blankets falling from the line to land beneath them, covering the
cool grass. Thank heaven for the low-slung sun painting their skins as they shed
clothes, turning them together into amber sliding over gold. Thank providence
for hand-loomed, winter silk sheets falling from the line, waiting to warm them
as blue twilight snuck up to slip in with its chill.

They sank to the ground, Luki rolling full onto his back and Sonny kneeling
beside him, pulling at Luki’s clothes and then staring openly at Luki’s bare,
hard penis, its shining glans, the sweet orbs of his testes resting below,
sparse, dark curls framing it all. His mouth watered so copiously that he
thought he might literally drool, but he couldn’t stop looking, couldn’t close
his eyes to what seemed at the moment the most scintillating wonder. But then he
glanced up and saw Luki watching him, and the thought evaporated.

“Now, baby,” Luki said, and, meeting no resistance at all, firmly but gently
pulled Sonny’s head down to his erection. Under a cloud of silk, Sonny imbibed.
Delicious. Sweet. Savory. Smooth. Slick. Hard.

Then Luki, still on his back, lifted Sonny’s head away, looked at him with a
soft smile in his eyes, and swiped a thumb across Sonny’s wet lips. He turned
Sonny and pulled him down so that they lay almost on their backs, nearly but not
quite spooned. He wrapped his arms around Sonny, arms still powerful despite his
illness and speaking so loudly of safety that the last little bit of caution,
the bit that Sonny always tried to reserve, fled. “Luki,” he said. “Oh god,
Luki.”

Luki chuckled, sweet in Sonny’s ear. His voice but a rough whisper: “Easy,
baby. Easy. We have lots of time.” He adjusted their positions slightly and
reached both hands around to tease and stroke over the front of Sonny’s body.
“Here,” he said sliding hot hands over Sonny’s belly. “Does that feel good?” He
didn’t wait for an answer. “And here, baby,” he crooned, pinching Sonny’s
already hard, sensitive nipples. “And this … Oh yeah, sweetie, this.” He ran
the flat of his hand down past Sonny’s erection, combed through the thatch of
dark hair to curve his hand under Sonny’s balls and gently squeeze. And then he
stroked up, dragging his fingers along the shaft of Sonny’s penis, so slow and
long it seemed to Sonny almost forever.

Almost forever, but not quite, because there was an after.

Luki touched and teased, caressed, stroked, until Sonny’s breaths came long and
deep, each one an almost-moan of pleasure. Licking across his ear, Luki
whispered. “Sweet man. Sweet, sweet man.”

“Luki,” Sonny breathed.

And then Luki proved once again that he knew Sonny well
and loved him a lot, because he heard Sonny’s worry in that one word, buried as
it was in passionate breath. Luki tightened his embrace a little, briefly. “What is it, baby? What do you
need?”

Sonny shivered at the touch of Luki’s breath in his ear. “Oh,” he said, in
surprise. But then, “Oh god, Luki. I want you so much. I want you in me, want
you to take my ass, but damn … damn.”

Luki twisted around now and looked at him, brow crinkled in puzzlement. “What,
sweetie? What is it?”

Sonny rolled over and buried his head in Luki’s shoulder. “Honey, the lube’s in
the house!” Luki laughed right out loud, which was such a rare and wonderful
event that Sonny forgot to be angry about being laughed at, and about the mood
being shattered.

“Sonny,” Luki said once he’d stopped laughing and controlled a light cough.
“Sweetie, you are the best thing that has ever happened to the world. And I love
you. And I’ve got the lube thing covered—it’s almost like I planned it. Where’s
my shirt?” He rooted around under the heavy sheets until he found it, reached in
the breast pocket, and pulled out the tube of high-powered lip salve he got as a
fringe benefit of chemo. “Look baby,” he said, and then when Sonny lifted his
head, added, “Ta-daa!” He laughed again.

Sonny, uncharacteristically grave, said, “But Luki, you need that!”

“No,” Luki said, his voiced once again infused with passion. “A little goes a
long way. See?” Gently chewing his lower lip, he squeezed a dab onto a finger
and reached down to rub it over the head of Sonny’s penis, circling the ridge,
drawing it—still with one finger—down the underside and over the testes’ sac,
sliding like satin all the way. He leaned over to slip his tongue past Sonny’s
open lips, then bit the bottom one lightly and tugged at it. He started up a
rhythm with his hand, moving it up and down Sonny’s hard penis, torturing him
with pleasure until finally Sonny became assertive.

“Give me that,” he said, and grabbed the tube, collected some of the serum on
his fingers and applied it to Luki’s erection, giving the same treatment he got.
They lay together, kissing and tonguing, stroking together until Sonny finally
cried out, “Stop! Fuck me, please Luki. I mean now.”

An Excerpt from Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed

July 2, 2012

About Little Boy Lost: Sacrificed

Reunited with his father but missing the one man he loves more than any other, Jamie Mayfield attempts to put his life back together amid rehab, seizures, and the gutting loneliness of Brian’s rejection. As he tries to cope, Jamie finds that relying on his friends isn’t nearly as difficult as he’d imagined, and soon he can once again stand on his own two feet.
While recovering from his addiction, Jamie starts a new phase of his life at college, working to become the man Brian needs him to be. Only one question remains: Can Jamie earn Brian’s forgiveness and win back his trust, or will their love be sacrificed at the altar of Jamie’s demons?
Brian and Jamie’s epic journey comes to a close in this thrilling conclusion to the Little Boy Lost series.

An Excerpt

(c) 2012 J. P. Barnaby

I finished the paragraph I’d been writing in the journal and then flipped over to my e-mail to see that I had just one, from Alex.

PIZZA and a movie sounds awesome. We haven’t done that in forever! Mike will be in SF this weekend, so can we make it a sleepover? I’ll bring my superhero jammies. We can get those weird chips that you like, lots of caffeine, and just talk.

Miss u like crazy!!

My laughter broke the eerie silence in the room. Apparently, lime-flavored tortilla chips constituted something weird. I logged in to the online grocery service that I’d started using to help my dad out. Grocery shopping was one of the few things that I could do to help out around the house. Two grown men who were hardly ever home didn’t make much of a mess, so there wasn’t a lot to clean. Because my seizures were still uncontrolled, my dad didn’t really want me to cook, so I’d just been assisting him in the kitchen. Adding chips, candy, and soda to the order, I scheduled the delivery and felt a little bit more in control of my life. At least I didn’t need to ask my dad to take me to store just so I could feed my friend.

After that, I fired off e-mails to my dad and Alex confirming plans for the weekend. I knew my dad wouldn’t have a problem. He’d been on me for the last two weeks to get together with my friends. What he didn’t really understand is that the one person I wanted to see didn’t want to see me. Brian hadn’t made any contact with me in the three weeks I’d been staying with my dad. Whenever I asked Alex about him, he just stalled and said that Brian was working some things out.

I lay back on my bed and stared at the ceiling, imagining Brian’s face.

The sound of a motor kicking to life startled me awake. My eyes opened against the late morning sunlight streaming in through the east-facing windows, and I blinked rapidly. The roar of the mower sounded close, so I went to my bedroom window to see where it came from. Three guys, naked from the waist up, worked in our backyard—mowing, trimming, and whatever else landscapers did. The guy mowing the lawn, clearly Hispanic, had a lean, muscular chest and a bandana holding back long black curls. My cock stirred just a bit, hopeful at the sight of such a beautiful guy in such close proximity. A second guy crossed my line of vision as he trimmed the hedges around the garage. Ebony skin glistened in the sun’s rays as they played across the perfectly defined shoulders and abs. A T-shirt, navy blue or maybe black, hung from the back of his jeans and looked dangerously close to falling when he squatted down to pick up a few small branches.

The third guy really got my attention as he knelt in the uninspired flowerbed along the back of the yard. I took a few steps closer to the window so that I could get a better look, my cock more interested by the second. By the time I could feel a chill from the glass, I was semihard. Short brown hair stuck up at odd angles, like he’d been running his hands through it, wiping sweat from his face as he worked. I couldn’t see his face, but if the body was any indication, the guy would be gorgeous. A sliver of guilt slid into my stomach because my dick got hard for some random guy in the backyard, but it wasn’t like I’d go out there and stand among the begonias and drop my jeans so he could suck me where he knelt. Though my cock strained at the crotch of my jeans, obviously very interested in that idea.

More from animal instinct than actual thought, my right hand strayed to my groin and rubbed lightly as I watched him transfer the last of the wilted plants into a lawn bag resting carelessly against his right knee. I rubbed my cock harder as the guy stood and stretched. My mouth actually watered at the sight of his long, lean muscles flexing and glistening in the soft light. Conflicting emotions swamped me as I thought about going outside to talk to him. My heart had ached for weeks without Brian, but a flurry of excitement caused my pulse to race. It was the only stirring I had felt since he walked out of my life.

When I considered opening my jeans to pull out my cock and stroke it in earnest, a horrible thought struck me. If my cock was in my hand when I started to seize, would my muscles tense around it, squeezing with brutal force? Almost as bad, I imagined the look on my dad’s face if he walked in and I was midseizure with my pants around my knees, cock in hand. I couldn’t even think about his horror if I were using some kind of toy. My hand moved away from my softening dick just as the gorgeous guy turned and I caught a glimpse of his face. I couldn’t stop the word that flew out of my mouth and reverberated against the window.

Fuck.

Mike glanced up from where he stood in the dying flowers and smiled when our eyes met. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I couldn’t believe I’d been drooling over the guy who’d made me feel like shit for the last few months, but I was honestly glad to see him. Mike felt like a link to Brian, and I needed one so badly right then. Even though we were in the same city, he seemed so goddamned far away that he might as well have been on the moon.

Release Party: “The Trust” – Excerpt Two (18+ excerpt, NSFW!)

June 18, 2012

This excerpt is a bit hotter than the last, so warning to all of you at work:  this one probably should be read at home!  Hope you like it.  -Shira

Blurb:   Eight years ago, Jake Anders was a college kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Then Trace Michelson recruited him into The Trust, a CIA-backed agency whose “executives” eliminate rogue biotechnology operations. Trace was everything Jake ever wanted in a man: powerful, brilliant, and gorgeous. But Jake never admitted his attraction to his mentor, and Trace always kept Jake at arm’s length.

Now Trace is dead and Jake is one of The Trust’s best operatives, highly skilled and loyal to the organization. But the secret agent has his own secret: six years ago, before he was assassinated, Trace designed a Sim chip containing his memories and experiences—and now that chip is part of Jake. It’s just data, designed to augment Jake’s knowledge, but when Sim becomes reality, Jake wonders if Trace is still alive or if Jake really is going crazy like everyone claims. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, let alone anyone else.

To learn the truth about Trace and the chip, Jake embarks on a dangerous mission—except he’s not the only one looking for the information. Some of the answers are locked in his head, and unless he finds the key, he’ll be killed for the technology that’s become a part of him.

Now, more than ever, Jake wishes Trace were here to guide him. Too bad he’s dead… right?

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

Pre-publication Excerpt, final version may change!

Excerpt from Chapter Eleven:

He closed his eyes and imagined himself on a beach overlooking blue-green water. He could hear the sound of the surf hitting the sand; he felt the spray on his face and the warmth of the sun. He took a deep breath and followed the Sim’s instructions.

He felt a strong pair of hands on his shoulders, digging into the tense muscles there from above him, kneading at the stiffness. The surf pounded the shore, and a drop of salt water hit his cheek. For the first time during a meditation, he realized he could smell—the tangy scent of seaweed washed up on the sand, the salt on the breeze, and something else—the citrus aftershave he remembered from years before. Trace’s aftershave. It was deeply unnerving. It was as though Trace were there with him, beside him. The real Trace and not a simulation. He fought the urge to stand up and start pacing again.

“Relax.” Trace Michelson’s resonant voice was a surprising balm for the stress Jake could not seem to release. The voice was also different than before: warmer, perhaps. No longer in his mind, but right there, next to him. Real. Much like the difference between a painting of a beautiful sunset and the sunset as it paints the world with vibrant color, because you are there to experience it.

“You’ve never touched me before.” Jake marveled at the strength in those long, graceful fingers. He could almost hear the other man’s breath in his ear as he imagined Trace’s face above his own, looking down. He didn’t open his eyes for fear that the scene would disappear and he’d be back in his own apartment once more, alone.

“You’ve never let me touch you, not in this way,” the Sim responded. “Until now, you haven’t been comfortable letting me get this close to you.”

“Hell.” Jake sighed and gave in to the need to believe that it was Trace Michelson touching him, and not just a simulation. “It’s all in my head, anyhow. Why should I care what you do?” He began to relax into the warm sand, and all thoughts of what Grey might say if he told him his Sim massaged his shoulders on a Caribbean beach vanished.

“You will find the answers.” Trace began to work his way down Jake’s arm, kneading the muscles. “But you must be patient.”

“Easy for you to say,” said Jake with a laugh. Trace worked his fingers up Jake’s arms and lingered briefly at his shoulders, working through the tension, reaching around his neck to work the muscles of his upper back. Painful bliss.

“Relax,” Trace commanded after a few more minutes. Jake obliged as his head sank back further into the soft sand.

“God, that feels so good.”

“You’re fighting it,” Trace said, his face again close to Jake’s.

“Hell no. It’s just that I’m starting to feel like Jell-O.”

“I’m not talking about your body,” the Sim replied. “I’m talking about your mind, your spirit.”

“My mind?”

“You must open your mind, Jake, and see the infinite possibilities.”

A flash of color hovered on the periphery of Jake’s consciousness: the mandala. “What am I supposed to see in it?” he asked as Trace caressed his chest. “What am I missing?”

“The future. Your future is there.”

“Right now, I’m just seein’ myself dead,” Jake answered acerbically. “And that’s what I see, no matter which way I look.”

“You’re better than that—stronger. You’re capable of so much more than you’re willing to admit. This is no different from any mission you’ve been sent on in the past. Only perhaps there is more to be gained in the end.”

“Will you be waiting there?” Jake asked.

There was no answer. Trace followed a line to the sensitive skin under Jake’s ear, and he felt gooseflesh rise on his body.

“God, Trace,” he whispered, “what are you doing?”

“I’m merely responding to your wishes, to your desires.” Jake imagined Trace’s lips close to his ear. “It’s what I’m programmed to do.”

“My… desires?” Jake wondered aloud. “Trace… he programmed you to…?”

“My programming has never been completely static,” Trace replied as he ghosted a pair of silken palms over the muscles of Jake’s chest, and Jake’s body arched instinctively upward. “I’m only responding to your needs, your desires.”

“Have I desired this?” Jake mused. He was a sexual being, although he’d never found a man who could completely satisfy him. And yet, this man whom he’d worshipped from afar….

“You hesitate because you do not know what to believe of your unspoken need,” Trace explained calmly.

“I….”

“It’s your desire that guides me. And it’s your fear that holds you back.”

“I’m afraid,” Jake admitted.

“You’re afraid of being with me.” Jake knew Trace was right. Was it so unreasonable to be afraid of Trace? He was nothing more than a ghost.

“How did you know,” Jake asked, uncomprehending, “when I didn’t understand it myself?”

“I’m a part of you. I can’t be separated from you, nor can I fail to hear what’s in your heart.”

Jake moaned again. The feel of Trace’s fingers on his scalp made him want to….

“Open your eyes, Jake Anders,” that glorious voice now commanded. “Open your eyes.”

Jake obeyed, looking into the most stunning eyes he’d ever known, their deep blue now appearing almost gray in the bright sunlight. It was as if he were seeing those eyes for the first time—they were no longer the cold, controlled eyes of the man who had mentored him but the eyes of a lover, warm and deep. Trace was naked, his hair wet from the water. Jake realized that he was naked, as well.

“Trace,” he whispered as their lips met. He ran his fingers over the well-defined chest, the smooth pale skin that seemed to glow in the sunlight. “You’re so goddamn beautiful. I never knew….” His voice trailed off as he felt Trace run his hands through his hair with its ends now painted in sand. Trace licked his ear, and Jake gasped. Why did this all seem so real? And how hadn’t he understood what he’d felt all along? He smiled for a moment at the realization that Grey had correctly guessed at his heart, then silently cursed the man for it.

“Do you understand, now, what you’ve denied yourself all these years?” Trace whispered, biting the lobe of Jake’s ear and sucking it for a moment. “Do you understand why I always kept you at arm’s length?”

“You didn’t want to hurt me.” Jake was momentarily stricken by the thought that the real man behind the Sim might not have desired him in the same way. To Trace, he’d been just a kid, eager, willing, and yet unable to comprehend the adult whispers of his soul.

Jake couldn’t deny it any longer: after years spent with the Sim as his constant companion, he’d grown to love Trace. It was utterly absurd. But as he lay on the beach with the water lapping at his toes, the absurdity of falling in love with the ghost who inhabited his mind didn’t matter. Here, in this place, that love felt real.

“I wanted you to make your own choices.”

I want this now. I want him.

Jake pulled Trace on top of him, raking his back with his nails until he heard a low groan in response. Then, roughly, he drew Trace’s face back to his and found his lips once again, probing Trace’s mouth with an insistent and demanding tongue, relishing the warmth as it opened to him. He had never tasted anything as sinfully sweet.

“Jake, what do you want?” Trace wrapped his arms around Jake and pulled him closer.

“I want you,” moaned Jake, his hands grasping at the tensed muscles of Trace’s shoulders, feeling the power there.

Trace pushed Jake back onto the sand, his eyes hooded with lust. He sucked hard at the base of Jake’s neck, then moved lower, biting a nipple and laving the outline of it with his tongue. Jake growled as Trace took the pebbled flesh between his teeth and rolled it there, biting it again, just enough to sting.

“Oh, fuck… Trace!” he cried out. Where did a Sim chip learn to do that? The thought was quickly replaced by thrumming need. He went to push Trace over, to dominate him as he was being dominated, but Trace was far stronger than he remembered, and he remained pinned beneath the smaller man.

Trace’s eyes grew darker still as he pushed Jake’s wrists into the sand at his sides. Jake ceased his struggle, surrendering to his companion until he felt Trace’s hard cock against his. But the blissful pressure of that contact was quickly gone as Trace leaned down, then drew lazy circles on his abdomen with his pink tongue, making his way slowly downward to the point that Jake thought he might lose his sanity in the pleasure of the other man’s touch.

“God, Trace.” The sun-heated water lapped at Jake’s feet as Trace’s lips parted and he felt the warmth of Trace’s mouth, exploring the length of him, tasting and sucking there.

Now I’ve really lost my mind.

“Hardly,” murmured Trace, circling his tongue around the sensitive tip before swallowing it down until his mouth met the reddish curls at the base of Jake’s cock. “You’ve just found it.”

He could barely breathe to feel that warm heat. And that tongue! God, that tongue was at once both heavenly and sinful. Trace sucked in his cheeks, increasing the pressure—that incredible, perfect pressure that made Jake forget everything. Teeth, lips, and tongue combined in the most exquisite way.

Jake realized his lover no longer held his wrists when he felt lithe fingers scrape the sensitive skin of his perineum and a firm hand cup his balls, then roll them about. “Shit!” he cried out, the sound of his voice lost on the crashing waves. “Shit, shit, shit!” A finger pressed against his tight opening, and it was just too much for him. He came hard in Trace’s mouth, shuddering and clutching Trace’s hair in his hands.

The cell phone alarm buzzed, and Jake awoke with a start, panting. He was still on the couch, wearing the same pair of pants as before. The apartment was dark. He was soaked in sweat. He felt the sticky warmth of his release on his abdomen. He was half-hard just remembering.

“Helluva dream,” he muttered to himself. He got up and headed for the shower, stripped off his pants, and set the temperature as cold as he could stand it. “You are one fucked-up SOB,” he added, shaking his head and grabbing the shampoo.

That was a dream, wasn’t it? he wondered as he rinsed the shampoo from his long hair.

Release Party: “The Trust” – Artificial Romance?

June 18, 2012

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the subject of three of my favorite sci fi movies of all time:  “2001, A Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner” and “The Terminator.”  All three movies involve self-aware computer “beings.”  Wherever you look, whether it’s in the toy store, on line communities, or science, AI is the big new thing.  My daughter just got a new iPhone that talks back to her (Siri).  So when my co-author, Venona Keyes, suggested a gay spy thriller featuring a microchip that is like a virtual hero, I said, “Way cool!”

The Trust” is the story of Jake Anders, who was recruited into a CIA-backed agency, The Michelson Trust, by Trace Michelson, the grandson of the agency’s creator and the agency’s current director.  The flesh and blood Trace trains Jake and ultimately asks Jake to participate in “Project Resurrection.”  Jake receives one of two prototype Sim chips, the “Trace Sim,” created using the life experiences and personality of Trace himself.  But when Trace is assassinated, all that remains of Trace is embodied in the microchip Jake now shares his mind with.   Or so it seems, until the Sim chip becomes Jake’s reality.

So what happens when you fall in love with the artificial recreation of a man?  And what happens when that artificial man becomes real?  For Jake, he begins to doubt that Trace is really dead, and he goes on a dangerous journey across continents to uncover the truth behind the legacy of Trace Michelson and, perhaps find Trace himself.  Along the way, Jake discovers that the Trace Sim is capable of far more than anyone ever realized.

Is there a happily ever after for Jake?  Yes.  Definitely.  It’s a romance!  How do we get there?  That’s the fun part.  You’ll have to read the book to find out! Interested?  Enter to win an ebook copy by commenting here.  Good luck! -Shira

From Ambush to Payback to Switch

May 23, 2012

Follow Zeke and Miles through the three stories. Feel free to tell me which one speaks to YOUR inner desire :)
xxxx

In AMBUSH, Zeke is planning his provocative new exhibition on Bondage, when he decides to push Miles a step further than before. Miles is used to being in control … but tonight, Zeke is calling the shots. And Miles finds himself trapped and unable to do a damned thing about it.

In PAYBACK, Miles plots his revenge in his typically determined and strategic way. It’s about time that Zeke learned to surrender control as well, but not necessarily in a physical way. Miles decides it’s time to turn the tables and make Zeke follow *his* wishes – and they’re both in for a surprise, sexually and emotionally. 


SWITCH (short story)

 

Available today at Dreamspinner Press

Sequel #3 to True Colors

Miles Winter and Zeke Roswell have excited and enthralled each other since the day they met. Zeke’s uninhibited lovemaking has allowed Miles to grow in confidence and their relationship to deepen. Back from a business trip, Miles knows he should take care of his backlog of work, but the delight of being reunited with Zeke makes him realize he has other, more important needs—including the one sexual step he hasn’t yet taken. Business can wait in favor of a commitment far more primal and more permanent.

EXCERPT from Switch:

Miles had arrived late for Bondage, after a succession of airport delays, and the show was already in full swing. The room was full of laughter and loud commentary and more than a few glasses of champagne being raised in salute to Zeke Roswell. Miles had pushed through the door behind a group of Japanese collectors and barely found a space to settle his case and coat. Malia had spotted him first, rushing over to make him more comfortable. But it had only been another few seconds before Zeke’s gaze found his, over the heads of the visitors milling around him. It was eerie, the way Zeke always knew he was there within moments of arriving. Eerie, and very exciting. Miles had recognized the look of welcome in Zeke’s eyes—shortly followed by weariness and the onset of frustration in the face of so many people’s clamor for attention.

He’d taken Malia to one side, and they’d managed to extract Zeke from the crowd shortly afterward. Zeke had already spoken to everyone who wanted to meet him; given soundbites galore for the press. Miles reminded him that the gallery had staff to cover the remaining hours of the event, and hustled him out to the limo and off to dinner at an undisclosed location.

Now they were at last in Miles’s bed, Zeke’s body stretched out underneath him, his comfort and passion in easy and willing reach. Tonight, the gentle touches made Miles shudder with excitement and impatience, even though he was usually the one who took a little longer to relax and surrender. Whereas Zeke knew exactly what he wanted and pursued it with hunger and mischief as swiftly as he could.

Usually.

But tonight… tonight was different. Miles rolled over again and spooned back up against Zeke. This time he didn’t flinch when Zeke ran his hand over his ass; this time he pushed back into the caress, inviting more.

“Talk to me,” Zeke murmured. He continued to stroke Miles, his strong hand running the length of Miles’s back, over his buttocks, down his thighs as far as Zeke could reach, then back up again. “Tell me what you saw at the show.”

Miles pursed his lips. “Not sure I can do you justice. My color blindness, remember? I don’t always get the full benefit ….”

Zeke gave a dismissive grunt and slid one of his hands around to Miles’s belly, playing with the trail of dark hair down to his groin. Miles’s cock thickened and stretched, the need starting an ache in his gut. “Not just the colors. Tell me what you saw.”

Miles frowned. He wished he could see the expression in Zeke’s eyes, try to guess what Zeke wanted. But Zeke had always told him to speak his mind. To speak his feelings. “Well, there was the usual dramatic combination of art and sculpture, all sizes, all mediums.” He smiled at the memory. There’d been a ladder effect of exhibits—paintings and other creations, stepping up beside each other, behind each other, making the visitor crane his head to be able to see it all. There were pictures of seducers and the seduced; those in bondage and those dominating; those who flushed with pleasure and the pure contentment of finding their sexual place in life and those who fought against it, anguished both physically and emotionally. The sexual bondage scenes had been playful, exciting and stimulating. But there’d been other, different views of bondage— photos of couples arm in arm but with body language that cried for separation, of workers miserable at their desk, of people of all ages who looked nothing but painfully uncomfortable in their clothes and home setting. The leaflets and placards Zeke had showed him in the office some weeks ago were there, evidence of protests against discrimination and repression. And in amongst the pictures were structures and tokens illustrating the locations where these things happened. In back streets, in public forums, in the comfort of a man’s living room. Everything in together, a riot of activity, a challenge to anyone’s critique. A jumble, like the box of exciting goods Zeke had spilled on Miles’s office carpet. Seemingly a mess, yet brought together by Zeke’s talent into an experience like no other. It was what people had come to expect of a Zeke Roswell show.
Miles’s smile caught on a gasp as Zeke bit mischievously at the skin stretched tight over Miles’s hip.

“Turn over,” Zeke muttered. “On to your belly. Keep talking.”

Miles rolled slowly over, resting his head on his hands. His heart beat more rapidly again. Zeke had a way of demanding things of him that reached into Miles’s equally assertive soul and invited total surrender. He wished they’d spent more time on familiar foreplay tonight, kissing and nipping gently at skin until one or the other of them laughed or begged to move on. He wanted to taste Zeke’s cock on his tongue, wanted to suck and lick it, a better taste by far than the champagne at the show. He wanted time to—
No, he didn’t. There’d be time for all that, another night.

“What did you feel?” Zeke murmured in his ear, breaking into his thoughts. “Tell me.”

“I felt excitement, suspense, anticipation.” Miles’s mind drifted back to all he’d seen. “There were curtains over the corners of the room, half-hiding the displays underneath. There were corners I turned and came face to face with shocking images. Sometimes it inspired anger or distress, sometimes titillation. There were explicit scenes of erotica, of both pain and ecstasy. Scenes of platonic but deeply felt love. It was… tantalizing.”

Zeke nodded. Miles felt the brush of Zeke’s hair on his shoulders as Zeke shifted down the bed. His tongue lapped gently at the small of Miles’s back, making him gasp again. Zeke stretched his leg over the back of Miles’s calf, momentarily holding Miles down on the bed. Miles felt the cheeks of his ass tighten with something between thrill and trepidation.

“I said, keep talking.”
xxxx
xxxx

Clare London … Writing Man to Man

           

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True Colors by Clare London

May 23, 2012

Hi again, from my release day celebrations for SWITCH and its fellow short stories.

It’ll be great to hear from you today, and remember – all comments will be entered into a draw for a free copy of ALL THREE shorts.


If you wanted to catch up with the original novel that brought the two apparently mis-matched guys together, in a confused, passionate and ultimately steamy way … HERE it is :) .

BLURB: From the very first, Zeke Roswell and Miles Winter are like oil and water. After a tragic fire claimed his brother’s life, Zeke’s personal and professional life spiraled out of control, and now he has no choice but to sell his gallery to cover his debts. Enter successful entrepreneur Miles, who buys it and plans to make a commercial success out of Zeke’s failure.

Their initial hostility stands no chance against the strong passion that ambushes them. Zeke’s talent and lust for life intoxicate Miles, and Zeke finds Miles’s self-assurance and determination equally fascinating. But it’s not until an unsolved mystery of violence and stolen sketches threatens to sabotage any chance at happiness that Miles and Zeke realize they have a chance at all.

EXCERPT from True Colors:

Miles didn’t know what made him start on up the stairs without calling or knocking.

When he reached the top, he looked across the landing, searching for Zeke. The door to the studio was wide open and he could see inside. There was a table set up in there now, and a couple of display stands, though there were no pictures or plans in view. The overhead light was off, and the only light in the room was from a thick church candle, anchored on a china plate and balanced rather precariously on the edge of the table. There were two coffee mugs there as well, and another empty plate.

Miles took a tentative step forward and peered further in. Over by the window, he saw Zeke with his back to him, one arm braced against the wall, facing out toward the city view. His body was silhouetted against the darkening sky outside by the single, flickering flame of the candle. His hair was tied back this evening, a short but vivid trail of dark curls against a white T-shirt that was too short, as usual; it rode up around his midriff. He wore those damned sweat shorts, though probably another pair, but the same style. Miles stared at the gap of fresh skin between shirt and shorts; followed the lines of muscles down the back of Zeke’s thighs; gazed at the slight glimmer of sweat in the hollow behind his knees, as it caught what little light there was.

His heartbeat stuttered and re-settled to its regular rhythm.

Almost immediately afterward, he noticed the other pair of legs. Another person stood in front of Zeke, largely hidden by him. The four limbs were closely pressed together and there was the shadow of fingertips at Zeke’s waist. Miles realized the other person must be extremely close, because he couldn’t see a separate face, couldn’t see easily which arm might be which.
With a wash of cold shock, he also realized how stupid he was, for the pair of them were obviously kissing. Zeke’s head dipped against the girl’s and her other hand gripped softly behind his neck, tangling into his hair, tugging him further against her. Miles saw the muscles of Zeke’s shoulders tensing as he pressed her body up against the wall more tightly, pushing his chest against her, his mouth so obviously working on hers.

Miles heard a soft gasp; a moan swallowed by another eager mouth.

Zeke’s free arm was hugged in front of his body, the hand hidden from view. The girl’s legs were parted against his hips. Miles imagined him flipping open the button of her jeans; he had visions of Zeke sliding his long, supple fingers down into her clothes; of touching her curls; of stroking parts that were hot and sweaty, and sensitive to every finger’s touch….
His shock became even colder as he watched the hand on Zeke’s waist slip down to his ass, and squeeze him confidently through the sweat fabric. Miles saw the muscles of Zeke’s shoulders shiver with pleasure, and his back arch under the touch. But there was something about the darkly tanned skin of the companion’s bare arm, seen clearly for the first time—something that jarred. There were strong tendons stretching to grasp at Zeke’s body, and soft hairs glinting in the evening glow.

It was a masculine hand; a young man’s hand. Miles had assumed it was a girl, but it was male.

He knew he had to leave. He had invaded Zeke’s privacy. Carter had tried to tell him Zeke was busy; he just hadn’t realized with what. He felt sick, and wondered briefly why a genuine error should make him feel so unstable. He wasn’t aware of making any noise as he turned to go back downstairs, but out of the corner of his eye he saw the figures straighten up and turn in his direction.

“Miles?” It was Zeke’s voice. Miles cursed every God he’d ever read about, and paused, his hand on the doorframe.

“Hold up, Miles. We’re just finished here, you know? Marco’s just going. Aren’t you, man?”

Miles stood, transfixed, staring at somewhere between the stairwell and the floor, as he heard the disgruntled mumbles from Zeke’s companion, and Zeke’s own careless laugh. “Not now, Marc baby. Yeah, I know. But first it was Carter calling, and now it’s my boss. I don’t have the time tonight. I’ll call you. Come on, man….”

Some rustling clothes; Miles heard a zipper being wrenched up. There was a jolt to his elbow, and a young, dark-haired man pushed past him, none too gently. Miles had the brief impression of a scowling, Mediterranean-cast face, and a body that obviously worked out; then Marco was gone, lumbering down the stairs in a rather unattractive sulk.

“Christ, don’t you ever knock?” growled Zeke. He came to stand next to Miles with a wry smile on his face. His cheeks were flushed; his lips plump and moist. “Guess that was useful for me, though. He’s a little too clingy for my liking.”

“I interrupted you… both. I’m sorry. I thought with Carter gone, you were free.”

“You met Carter?” Zeke looked at Miles with interest. “Good. I told him some stuff about you. Probably best he sees you for real, or I may be blackening your name needlessly, eh?” He laughed, easily enough.

Miles leaned a little away from him. He hated him, briefly, suddenly, and had never known such a reaction in himself. How could Zeke be so cool after such embarrassment? How could he just abandon the sensual anticipation of that make-out session, and dismiss his lover so swiftly? How could he chat so calmly to Miles about other people entirely; how could he laugh as if nothing had happened there? Miles wished he could wipe his own embarrassment from his mind—the strange, churning feelings inside his stomach that he was sure were showing on his face. He’d never known such discomfort.

Nor had he ever felt such desire. A desire that wracked his gut, demanding that he be where that young man had been, just moments before: wrapped around Zeke Roswell, with Zeke’s tongue in his mouth, and Zeke’s hand down the front of his pants.
xxxx
xxxx

Clare London … Writing Man to Man

           

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Excerpt: False Start

April 25, 2012

Here’s an excerpt from False Start, which is on sale now! There’s a little sexual content and some cussin’ in the excerpt. Nothing y’all can’t handle. ;)

Summary:

It’s Tucker Locke’s ten-year college reunion, and he doesn’t have much to show for himself. Sure, he’s a successful lawyer with a nice car and a nice apartment, but his life is empty, and Tucker knows why. A decade ago, not ready to come out of the closet, he left Whit Jamison behind.

Tucker’s spent ten years pretending to be straight—ten years thinking about his mistakes. But all the time in the world couldn’t prepare him for the reality of seeing Whit again. Whit’s taller, more mature, more attractive than ever, and every bit as out and proud as he was ten years ago. Time hasn’t changed the chemistry between them, and it looks like Tucker might get a second chance. All he has to do is brush aside the years of lies and embrace one powerful truth.

Excerpt:

Tucker

The whole thing started on the first day of my senior year at Caswell College in Danesboro, North Carolina, home of the Wildcats, when I first laid eyes on Whit. There I was, sitting pretty: popular, a little bit of a badass, a jock of the “track-pack” variety. Not the quarterback or the point guard, but certainly higher in the social strata than any scrawny freshman could ever aspire to. Whit was lean and awkward, all wrist bones and spiky dark hair. He’d been in college for about four minutes—he still had the dorky orientation folder tucked under his arm, first-day jitters buzzing like bees through the crowd as he climbed the steps to the main entrance of the building we called All Hall, where most classes were held.

See, I thought I’d heard someone call my name, so I turned and looked, and there he was, backpack falling off one shoulder, the red folder marking him as cannon fodder for upperclassmen.

Our eyes met, and the buzzing feeling, that adrenaline spike, focused on me. His eyes went wide and his mouth opened, and he was just a kid, right? What was he, eighteen? Maybe nineteen? But I didn’t look away. I didn’t trip him, like Spew (short for Stuart Pugh) or Sammy Pitt (you can guess what his nickname was) would have done. I didn’t nudge him aside with an admonition to respect his elders or look right over him the way we tended to do with underclassmen.

Any of that could be forgiven; for that matter, it was pretty much expected.

Instead, I stared at him, and he at me.

“Hi. It’s Tucker, right?” he said. His voice didn’t match the protruding wrist bones, the nervous shuffle from one foot to the other. He sounded deep, smart… confident. A real contradiction. “Tucker Locke?”

I nodded.

He stuck his hand out like we were grown-ups meeting at the sixteenth hole, like there weren’t a couple hundred students parting around us like we were an island in a flooding river.

“I’m Whit Jamison,” he said, and I found my hand pumped and squeezed. He had long fingers. “I went to Southern High too. You were a senior when I was a freshman.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t remember you.”

“No reason you would,” he said. “I was, like, three feet tall then.”

“Tucker Locke,” I offered. Then I felt color climb up in my cheeks. He’d already said he knew who I was. I chalked it up to my own first-day jitters. I put my sweaty palms down to the same thing. I had a harder time explaining the way my heart jumped in my chest, or the way I kept looking between his eyes and his mouth.

It was a moment, nothing more, but it set something in motion that ended up defining the entire year. Hell, my entire life.

My memories of senior year go something like this: classes, being hungry enough to eat a bear, cross-country training in the fall, competing, eating some more, track training in the spring, meets, studying. On the weekends I’d drink on Saturday nights and then go to church on Sunday mornings—a minor dichotomy compared to the other part of my life that year: meeting up with Whit late at night. When I think about Caswell, I think about the noise in the halls, the tap of fingers on keyboards, and the way light filtered in through the classroom windows. When I think about Whit, it’s always of nighttime and heat, the way his breath caught when I touched him, the slick slide of his tongue. Light and dark. I separated the two as completely as I could.

Those eight dizzying months of secrets and discovery came to an abrupt halt when my two worlds collided on the Friday night between final exams and graduation. I’d walked a fine line from September to April, living one life for everyone else—my friends, my teachers, my parents, my future clearly mapped—and another in stolen moments with Whit. What did it say about me that those few hours with Whit were the happiest of my life, but I couldn’t bring myself to let him into any other part of my life?

Whit invited me to the movies. Like, you know, a date. A simple enough request, he seemed to think. “It’s just a movie, Tuck,” he said when he asked. “Come on, you’re graduating. Live a little,” he said.

He didn’t understand. I’d been doing exactly that: living a little. Stealing time, taking something for myself before the real world came knocking. Every time we found an hour or two to be together, the world brightened, even in the dark.

I told him I had other plans, hanging out with a bunch of seniors at Stuart Pugh’s house, a little pre-graduation party. He looked at me intently, and I thought he’d push it, but then I slid my hand up the back of his T-shirt and that took care of conversation.

But it turned out Spew and Spit wanted to go to the movies too. Their girlfriends even rounded up a date for me—a redhead with pendulous breasts named Martha-Dunn Dewey who I’d known since kindergarten. Trust me, if I’d wanted to date her, I’d had plenty of opportunities. I went along—what else was I supposed to do? I even held her hand as we walked up to the ticket line at Danesboro’s only fourplex. At nine o’clock on a Friday, a bunch of people were milling around, and the line stretched down the sidewalk.

And of course, three people ahead of us in line stood Whit, his back to me. It hadn’t occurred to me that he’d come by himself because I’d never have done that in a million years. But that’s Whit for you, that’s the kind of guy he was.

When he got to the ticket window, his voice carried when he said, “One for Scorpion King.”

Spit leaned over and spoke loudly enough that I saw the words strike Whit in the back of the neck. “Hey, who knew fags liked action movies?”

My spine straightened, but before I could say anything, Spew chimed in, “Maybe he wants to bend over for The Rock.”

Shut up! I wanted to say. Shut the fuck up!

But then Martha-Dunn curled her lip up and said, “Ew, that’s gross. Don’t even make me picture that.”

I watched as red swept up from the back of Whit’s collar all the way to the tips of his ears. He turned, and his eyes narrowed on Spit and Spew, then widened when they landed on me, on my face, then on my sweaty hand, still clutching Martha-Dunn’s.

I wanted to run, but I felt like I was made of stone.

I should have stood up for him. Obviously. That goes without saying. Hell, I should have stood up for myself, because I was like him, just like him, only I didn’t have the balls to say so. I didn’t have the courage. We’d been meeting in secret for months because I couldn’t bring myself to give him up, but I couldn’t stand beside him, either, and take the kind of licks he absorbed every day just for showing up and not pretending to be something he wasn’t.

I should have done something, but I didn’t.

I didn’t say anything. He didn’t say anything. He stood there for a second; then he went into the theater lobby, the back of his neck still red, while Spew and Spit laughed at their own stupid jokes.

He was waiting for me—his cheeks on fire, his mouth set, and his eyes ablaze—when I came into the lobby a few minutes later, with Spew and Spit behind me.

No. Just… no. Nothing good could come from whatever would happen when that unholy trio came together.

I took a hard left and veered off into the concessions line, shaking off Martha-Dunn with a curt word about getting popcorn. I ignored Spew’s shouted, “Yo! Tuckeroo! We’ll save you a seat.” And I ignored the feel of Whit’s gaze on my back.

The brightly colored board above the concessions stand showing enormous packages of Skittles and Milk Duds and Twizzlers blurred as I stared at it, my heart thumping in my chest.

Then, from behind me, I heard, “Your friends are assholes.” Whit’s voice, soft and familiar.

No argument there, but I couldn’t make myself say so. The candy board blurred even more. I blinked a couple of times and dragged in a breath.

“Why didn’t you just tell me you were coming with them? With her?” Whit asked.

My heart thudded again. “This isn’t the time,” I gritted out through my teeth. Not the time and not the place, not in front of all these people. Couldn’t he see that?

“Then when?” he asked, and he must have taken a step forward, because I swear to God, I could feel him up against my back, his breath warm on my neck when he whispered, “Why can’t you just be with me? Just once. Tuck—”

“Back off,” I snarled. I meant it literally, physically, right then and there. I was so scared and so angry I could hardly breathe. I felt trapped, afraid of what onlookers would see, sure that somehow they would know what we’d been getting up to, that it was written all over me in some kind of invisible, pornographic Sharpie. But I meant it figuratively too. I took what I could get; why couldn’t he do the same?

Silence.

When I finally worked up the courage to turn around, he was gone.

The movie sucked. In the back row, Martha-Dunn offered to do the same, rubbing her tits against my arm, but I declined, probably more politely than the brush-off I’d just given Whit.

Whit and I never talked about it. We never touched again, either. It was as if it had all been a dream, as if I’d never held him, never kissed him, never felt him tremble, hot under my hands.

We passed each other a couple of times over the next few days, but I studiously avoided eye contact. I knew what I’d see: the same disappointment I saw when I looked in the mirror.

I know now that I blamed him for my own failing. I let fear define me. That was the main difference between us—he met life head-on, and I ran at the first obstacle I encountered.

I graduated a week later and moved to Richmond a week after that. I spent the next six months studying for the LSATs like my life depended on it, which I guess it did.

My parents thought I was (finally) being industrious.

They had no idea how far I was willing to run.

And that’s how the whole thing ended.

We have a winner!

January 6, 2012

Midia correctly answered the Awakenings contest question about which hotel Adam works at with “the Delano.” Congratulations, Midia! You have won a free copy of Awakenings in e-book format. Please contact me at tara.larson.author@gmail.com to arrange delivery of your e-book.

Thanks everybody! :)

Awakenings Contest Question!

January 6, 2012

OK, a lovely e-book copy of Awakenings (format of your choice) will be awarded to the first person who can tell me……..

…What hotel does Adam work at?

Last Excerpt from Awakenings, by Tara Larson

January 6, 2012

***I WILL ASK A QUESTION AT AROUND 9PM PERTAINING TO THE 4 EXCERPTS I’VE POSTED. THE FIRST PERSON TO ANSWER CORRECTLY WILL WIN A FREE E-BOOK COPY OF AWAKENINGS.***

JUNE had been quietly observing her son over the past couple of weeks. She still had to quash her anxiety about Sean’s “disease,” but she found herself relaxing more and more. He was going to counseling, he was taking the medication she had advocated for, and he was a genuine pleasure to be around. She noted how he relished his role as cook and groundskeeper of the house. She also noted how he never once brought up law school, or Lindsey. She had a nagging feeling that he was hiding something, though… she just couldn’t put her finger on it.

ADAM spent the following weeks with his head down, staying as busy as he could so he wouldn’t dwell on his situation with Sean. He tried to focus on the pieces for his upcoming sculpture show and spent a lot of his free time in the metal-sculpture lab at UM, which he had free access to due to his blossoming friendship with some of the art department faculty members. They had encouraged him months before to show his work publicly and had helped him secure the show he was working toward in the spring in New York. They had also been the ones who talked him into trying out posing for the life-drawing classes, saying he would make a perfect subject with his long limbs and pronounced musculature.

These people were intelligent, successful people, not the opportunistic vampire types that he used to hang out with in the South Beach party scene. He had gotten caught up in that scene a few years prior, when he was entangled in a very destructive relationship. The guy he had dated was named Marco, he was Cuban, and he was a drug abuser. He also was a friend abuser, Adam came to find out.

When they met through a mutual friend, Marco had seemed very charming and seductive. He was a very handsome guy: tall, dark-haired, like Adam. In fact they looked very similar; people used to call them “the twins” whenever they went out. He wore a goatee and had his eyebrow pierced. He had dark brown eyes, which at the time Adam found delicious and mysterious. Later, however, he came to see them as cold and calculating and evil. He spoke Spanish, but together they spoke a mixture of Spanish and English—Spanglish—which was pretty common in Miami for second-generation Latinos who grew up in Florida with foreign-born parents. They frequented the many clubs throughout the hot party scene on the beach together, and Adam often found himself up all night and sleeping all day because of all the drugs he was doing with Marco. He also sometimes found himself waking up in beds he wasn’t familiar with, that belonged to some random third party—sometimes male, sometimes female—that Marco had hooked them up with for a tryst without Adam’s full, lucid consent. He realized that drugs were making his decisions for him when he awakened late one night after having passed out on Marco’s living room couch, only to find Marco in bed with not one, but two other guys in a wild three-way. He left the house when Marco insinuated he should join them, like that had been the original plan all along, had Adam not been such a lightweight and passed out. However, it wasn’t long before Marco wormed his way back into his life again.

Soon after that happened, he also discovered Marco was stealing money from him. Adam’s father had passed away during this period, and Adam, who was lost in grief over his father’s death, didn’t notice at first that Marco had gained access to his bank account. Apparently Marco thought since Adam was now relatively wealthy he should be footing the bill for all their partying and proceeded to pilfer several thousand dollars from Adam, which was promptly blown on cocaine, Ecstasy, alcohol, and expensive clothes. Upon this discovery, Adam realized he’d had it with Marco and his conniving selfishness, and he left him—and the party scene—for good.

It took Adam a couple of months to detox and get over the initial sharp pain of the experience. After he got his wits about him again, he made sure he was disease-free. He had remembered both a guy and a girl from their crowd who had contracted HIV. And there was no telling who Marco had been with half the time. He got a clean bill of health and counted himself lucky to have escaped that whole situation relatively unscathed. It left him with a healthy cautiousness, though, regarding unprotected sex. He knew it wasn’t a harmless activity, especially in Miami.

It was Marco, though, who had helped him get the job at the Rose Bar at the Delano. Marco had a high-profile reputation on the beach as a big spender and a party animal and knew the manager of the hotel well. Adam considered quitting the job when he left Marco, but kept the position, partly out of spite and partly because he really liked the vibe of the bar. It wasn’t an all-night disco, at least, and the hotel was posh; he made good money there and they liked him, so he decided to stay on. He knew Marco would never come in there, anyway; it was too mellow for his tastes.

So, because of the mess he had found himself in with Marco, he reasoned that hanging out with people at the university was a more stable choice than hooking up with unreliable types from the South Beach party scene. It meant a much quieter life, but that was perfectly okay with him. He was determined to live his life as cleanly and as productively as he could now. The only thing that had been missing was someone reliable to share it with.

And then he had met Sean, who seemed to be everything he was looking for and everything he felt like he needed: someone kind and sensitive, who wasn’t a moocher but wanted to be a professional person in his own right, who had artistic interests, and who was incredibly and naturally sensual, despite being an ingénue. He ached over the situation now, with Sean back in Charlotte and being held pretty much against his will by his parents—which to him was baffling. How could a grown man fall prey to such a situation? He reasoned that Sean’s family must have a tight grip on him emotionally for him to even tolerate such crude insensitivity. He also realized that Sean’s family probably wouldn’t be as accepting of him, either—not like his own parents had been toward him. He knew he had to trust Sean to navigate that terrain, as he obviously knew it better than Adam did. It required patience from him, though, and that wasn’t easy to come by. He had to keep busy so he wouldn’t wallow in his thoughts and his anxiety about it.

One evening, while he was in the metal-sculpture lab at UM working out the details of one of his show pieces, his friend Angie, who was also a sculptor, mentioned that he seemed a little distant lately. She asked if he was okay. He acknowledged that he was lost in his thoughts, and then decided to confide in her as to why. She seemed sympathetic to him and wished him well with Sean; she said she hoped to meet him someday. Adam said, wistfully, that he hoped for the same.

IN THE meantime, Marisol could tell Adam was becoming a little depressed, even a little resentful, even though—and perhaps because—he was keeping himself so busy. He would talk about the situation with her, and she knew all the details, but she figured the inability to control the situation was really eating at her son. She knew him better than anyone else.

She confronted Adam. “Mijo, listen to me,” she began. “I see you moping around here, with your eyes all dark and serious, and then keeping yourself so busy you don’t allow yourself time to even think about him. You could be happy and relaxed right now, but you choose to be miserable.”

Adam shook his head. “It’s not that easy.”

“Of course it is easy. Choosing is easy.”

“No, Mom, it’s not. You don’t understand. Sean—he’s special. I feel like he was… like he was gifted to me, you know? I feel like I created this mess—like I created this part of him, like some kind of Frankenstein, I guess—and now I should protect him, or help him, and I can’t. I can’t do anything to help him.”

“Don’t you think he can take care of himself? You don’t think he made his own choices too?”

“Yeah, Mom, I think he made his own choice. But he wouldn’t have even thought about it, wouldn’t have even considered it, if I hadn’t thought, from the moment he walked in that room that night, that he was there for me. I made the moves on him, I initiated it. And now he might be in a shitload of trouble because of it. I feel responsible. And on top of all that, I can’t shake the feeling… the fear that it’s all bullshit, anyway—that he’s just stringing me along. That he’ll never come back. That he’ll never come clean about it to his family or to his girlfriend… that I’ll just be his dirty little secret. That I justimagined everything.” He cradled his head in his hands.

“Bah, mierda!”

Adam looked up, confused. “What?”

“You are loco, mijo. You might be right, he might have been your gift, but he had all the freedom in the world to choose or to not choose you back. You didn’t force him into anything. You are not responsible for that. You have to let that go. He will be okay. He will find a way back. And you know what? If he doesn’t, then you have to accept that your gift was a momentary gift, not a permanent one. He might have a big lesson for you, mijo. And I think you know what I think it is….”

Adam peered at his mother petulantly.

“Let go… and trust.”

THE Sunday evening before the last week of Sean’s counseling, Sean made a beautiful pot roast dinner with carrots, potatoes, green beans, and fresh french bread. He paired it with a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon and had a tangy, hard cheese and grapes to nibble on for dessert. After he cleaned up, he announced he was heading for his room.

As his father reclined in his La-Z-Boy, watching a news magazine show, June slipped into the master suite to change clothes. She walked into her huge walk-in closet and located the personal belongings they had confiscated from Sean: his computer and his phone. She eyed them cautiously before crouching down to open them and power them on.

SEAN locked the door to his room and sat on the edge of the bed, looking at himself in the mirror above the dresser. He missed Adam. He could feel a distance growing between them and he didn’t like it. He really needed to decide how he was going to handle the next few days of his life and how he could possibly transition to a life with Adam. He knew it was completely over with Lindsey; after she revealed her true self by calling his parents over for an “intervention” to keep him in law school—which would also keep her on the track to being a self-serving lawyer’s wife—breaking up with her would be easy. He would go home this weekend, sit down with her, and explain that he was no longer in love with her, that he would never marry her, and maybe, just for another dig at her, he’d tell her he had been fucking Shannon from the gym after all, just to seal the deal. He would let her live in the house because, well, he wasn’t planning on staying there anyway. He could pack up all of his stuff within a week, get a moving van, and… just drive south to Miami? That’s where things got dicey in his mind. He had no idea how to get past that point smoothly. Maybe there was no smooth way to do it… maybe it was just going to have to be a bumpy ride and he should just accept it, hold on tight, and get it over with?

In the meantime, he knew one thing: Adam soothed him. Even just thinking about him, conjuring up his scent, picturing his cool green eyes, imagining how his full lips felt on his lips, his skin, his cock… his mind always turned that direction when he thought about Adam. He was the most amazing lover Sean had ever had, hands down. And he knew it wasn’t just because it was a new experience, his first time with a man; it was because Adam was so attentive, sensual, and skilled in every way. Gender, or the idea of being attracted to one gender while shunning the other, was becoming a blurred image from the past; like Adam, the soul meant so much more to him now.

He sighed deeply as he felt himself grow hard. He lay back on the bed and shimmied off his pants. He grabbed himself with both hands and just held himself in his own grip for a moment, his eyes closed, picturing Adam naked and smiling his sly half smile. He remembered how he had so deftly fucked Adam in the shower and how Adam had enjoyed it so much. That was their last time together before he left. He began stroking himself slowly as he allowed his mind to remember every detail, every sensation, every smell, every taste….