Then in late 2008 I stumbled across a contest a publisher was having. I literally wrote the book in a month’s time (my own private nanowrimo). Every entry was supposed to get editorial feedback, which I thought was great, since I didn’t have any beta readers or critique partners and lord knew I couldn’t ask my rl friends to review because holy crap the book has man on man sex in it! I just looked at it as a chance to see if I could write something others might want to read.
Well, I never heard back from the publisher, except for the automated we-got-your-document response. So I wallowed in bitterness and anger for a while then segued into self-pity and finally acceptance that I probably suck as a writer. A few months later, don’t know what possessed me, but I opened up the story file and re-read my book and thought, “This needs a lotta work. But it isn’t too awful.” So I revised. And sent the synopsis and three chapters to one of my favorite publishers, Loose Id.
Lo and behold! They wanted to see the whole dang thing! And after they read it, well, wonder of wonders, they wanted to publish it. And, la, here it is!
My husband and I were off on a cruise! So I had my laptop with me (‘cause y’know I had to be able to keep in touch with my college-age son in case of emergency, right?) and sure enough, while cruising off the coast of the U.K. I received the email that said “Welcome to Loose Id!” I read that a couple times to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Then I did the “hey guess what” thing with my husband. Did the happy dance. Smiled a lot.
Dylan Forest is really pretty happy. He’s a successful architect, lives in a great little town, and has good friends. More than ten years ago, Dylan’s first boyfriend betrayed him. Since then he’s learned to appreciate men briefly and intensely, with no lingering complications. But Dylan finds himself wanting something more with Michael Gilmore, the new art teacher in town.
Michael moved to Raven Pass to get away after a bad break-up. He just wants to teach and he’s got an exhibit of his own work coming up. He doesn’t expect to find himself attracted to anyone just yet. He has to give up his fear so he can explore a possible relationship with Dylan.
The guys manage to get past their insecurities and into bed, where they find out just how compatible they are. Before their romance gains momentum, however, life gets complicated. An old dead body and a new murder are both connected to Dylan’s love life, and it appears that Michael will be next.
What’s going on? And can Dylan and Michael stop it before it stops them?
The pile from the backpack was an interesting assortment of things: tins of charcoals and pastels, pencils of different sizes, crumpled papers, an orange, several sketch pads, an iPod, headphones, tubes of acrylics, a six-inch wooden manikin, and a notebook computer.
The whole thing reminded me of Mary Poppins’s carpetbag. “If I stuck my arm in your backpack, would I pull up a hat rack?”
He didn’t bat an eye. “No, but you might get a floor lamp.”
Michael used the computer to make notes and write an outline of our plan. His fingers flew over the keyboard. When I tried to think, my eyes were drawn to his hands, and thoughts of architecture were replaced with thoughts of what those hands would feel like… I had to get up and move around the room in order to speak coherent sentences.
Eventually, my stomach pointed out that I hadn’t eaten yet by growling loud enough to be heard in New Jersey. Michael stopped typing and tilted his head to listen.
“Sorry,” I said. “Snack time?”
“Good idea.” He closed the laptop, set it off to the side, and stretched his arms toward the ceiling. My mouth watered when his stretch exposed a strip of skin at the bottom of his shirt. I turned rapidly toward the fridge and stuck my head in, hoping the cold would wash all the way to my cock.
“Do you feel like veggies and dip, or chips and salsa?” I yelled from the bowels of my Amana.
“Definitely chips and salsa.” His voice sounded from right next to me, and I nearly gave myself a concussion when I jumped. My scowl was lost on him; he only grinned at me when I straightened up. I handed him the salsa, and he poured it in a bowl while I dumped the chips into a basket. We each grabbed another beer and returned to the table, sitting at the far end away from the mass of papers strewn about. Michael turned his chair to face out toward the deck. Our conversation turned from our project to other topics.
I discovered, among other things, that he was originally from western Pennsylvania, had two sisters and a brother, graduated from my alma mater -- Penn State -- with a major in art education and a minor in graphic design, and at twenty-six, was six years younger than me. He learned that I was born not far from right here, my mother died when I was ten, my favorite thing to do was design buildings and landscapes, and gardening was a stress-relieving hobby.
I was just about to ask him about the kind of music he liked when I noticed a glop of salsa at the corner of his mouth. “You’ve got some, um, salsa, there.” I tried to point without pointing, to, you know, be polite.
“Where?” He rubbed at the wrong side of his mouth.
“No, the other side.”
He wiped a spot on his cheek. “Did I get it?”
“Here,” I said and scooped the offending sauce off with my thumb, which somehow then ended up in his mouth.
I watched with fascination as he sucked gently, pulling the digit in, swirling his tongue around it, his eyes closed as if this were the best thing he’d ever tasted. My other fingers rested on his face, feeling the suction through his cheek. He pulled back and opened his eyes; I got lost in them for a minute. When I moved my hand to the back of his neck and drew him to me, he gave no resistance. Our lips met, flavored with salt and salsa. We shared a series of little kisses, tasting each other gently.
He had turned his chair around, and we sat facing each other. His hands rested on my biceps, and my hands slid to his chest -- where they noticed that Michael did have more interesting piercings.
The soft little kisses grew stronger. The more I had, the more I wanted.
Without moving his lips away, Michael said, “I’ve wanted to kiss you since I met you.”
“So kiss me,” I mumbled back.
I caught his tongue with mine and sucked on it, a hopeful foreshadowing of events to follow. He pulled on my bottom lip with his teeth. The frenzy meter ratcheted up, our lips and tongues exploring, probing, claiming. I felt his hand in my hair, and my own hand twisted his shirt. Breathing became a secondary need, behind tasting. When air proved to be necessary, we slid back into short, small kisses. It didn’t take long for me to feel refreshed, and I plunged back into kissing him deeply, rolling my tongue across and under his teeth. He groaned when I held his face between my palms and bit lightly at his lips. He tried to take back control, but I couldn’t get enough of tasting him.
His tug on my hair pulled me away enough to look in his eyes. “Dylan,” he whispered.
“Shh,” I said. “A moment.” We were still, just breathing, and I could feel the reverberation of each kiss.
He gave me that moment; then he leaned back. “Wow.” His hands slipped away from my shoulders as he stood up. He walked to the sliding glass door and leaned against the jamb, staring out across the hills. This did not seem like a good sign to me. I didn’t know if I should follow or back away. I opted for the middle road, stood up but stayed near my chair.
He turned toward me.
“I…that was…” He shook his head. “I’ve never been kissed like that.”
“That makes two of us. Why are you over there?”
He looked out the window again. “I’m overwhelmed. This wasn’t what I expected.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Neither. Both. I’m not sure.” He crossed the room to where his belongings were piled. “I have to go… I need to think.”
“Michael, no. I want you to stay.” This time I did follow him, stopping just within reach.
He threw his things into the backpack. I grabbed his hands to hold them still. “Listen. I maybe didn’t do this right. I moved too fast.” He stared up at me, waiting. “I like you, and I don’t want to screw this up.” I thought about the different men I’d been with and how everything with them happened so fast because there was so little time for it. I realized I was walking new ground, here. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
He clenched my hands. “No…don’t…I think I scared myself. You remember I told you about the relationship I’d been in?”
“When I left, I promised myself that I would not jump into another one. I can’t do things part way.” He let go of me, and his pacing emphasized the words he spoke quietly. “Tim -- my ex -- and I, we were together almost a year, and I completely misread him. I was so excited about our being together -- I was looking at houses and furniture, but he was looking at other men. Our arguments left me realizing that I expected too much -- made too many big plans. Tim said some cruel things to me, but he made me think about not only ours, but other relationships I’d been in. I leap too quickly. I can’t trust myself.” He stopped moving, shrugged, and gave a little unhappy laugh. “My mom used to tell me I was too passionate about, well, everything. My brother used to tell me I was a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.”
He suddenly looked so very young. I felt like a lecher. I wanted to rewind back to where we were building a friendship. Before I could say anything, he continued.
“I thought I’d learned my lesson, but you were so unexpected. And it threw me.”
I’ve been called a lot of things, but “unexpected” was a new one. “I’m not sure I’m following you.”
His pacing brought him to the opposite side of the table. He leaned on it. “I never expected that I would find anyone like you in this place. You’re smart. Funny. Kind. Gorgeous. I’ve been thinking about that kiss for so long, I was sure the reality would never live up to the fantasy. I was wrong. It was better.”
I stood speechless. No one had ever said anything like that to me. I replayed his words in my head a few times so I wouldn’t forget them.
A sigh came from deep in his chest as he shoved his belongings into his bag. “It scares the shit out of me.” He zipped up the backpack and headed to the front door.
I tried to shake off the fog that was swirling around my head and stopped him with my hand on his arm. “Wait. Can’t we work through this together?”
“I just need a little time. I don’t want to go into anything blinded by my fantasies. And I don’t want to ruin something with exploding baggage before it begins.” A look of fear passed over his face. “Oh, God, have I ruined it already?”
I was too flummoxed to answer anything with conviction. “No, no, you haven’t ruined it. I think we both have baggage we need to unpack.”
Michael gave me a shaky smile and reached up to kiss me on the cheek. As he opened the door and stepped out, he said, “I will call you. I know that sounds stupid, but I promise I will.”
Before I could think of anything else to say, he was gone.
Harry: “Stairs, if they have them. If someone shoots at us on stairs, we can scream and flail around a lot more."