July 21, 2014
Short and sweet – for your choice of any one of my backlist stories:
Some folks have said that Gravitational Attraction involves “fated mates” which is a mislabeling. More accurately, the romantic match has to do with two people recognizing how compatible they are, right down to the molecular level.
Tell me about a time you just clicked with someone and how you knew you were meant to be together (spouse, lover, friend – doesn’t have to be your forever mate.)
I’ll draw a random winner tomorrow and let you know – so please leave an email address to contact you!
Don’t know what to pick if you win – come nose around my website and see what appeals to you: Angel Martinez
May 24, 2014
One more time, the rafflecopter link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4059d62/. Rafflecopter goes through Monday the 26th.
See Release Party Post #5 for the party-specific contest details (different from the rafflecopter). Entries for this will be accepted until 10:00 PM tonight, then I’ll throw names in the had for a winner.
Comments on any post received before 10 PM will be answered, and if they’re later than that I’ll strill try to answer, promise!
Important: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t say it enough. You’ve all made the day a success, and I hope the rest of your weekend is likewise.
More Important: Keep reading, whatever you read. See you around soon, I hope.
Most Important: “Do anything, but let it produce joy.” ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
March 14, 2014
Hi! I’m Cindy Sutherland and I’m here with you today celebrating the release of my latest book and first full length novel, Wrapped Up in Chains. I’m so glad to be here, and I’m really excited because I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m going to be hanging out throughout the day, chatting and answering any questions you might have. I’m actually have the day off because the flu has been running rampant through my house and it’s finally my turn. At least it waited until everyone else was over it!
I’m going to be giving away a copy of the ebook version of the novel and you can win by commenting below and answering this question:
Would you rather spend an hour as a sub or as a Dom…no judgements, just for fun! I’ll tell you my answer at the end of the day.
I’m going to start by sharing the blurb with you.
Devon West is a professional Dom who runs his own club, doesn’t believe in romance, and had never been in a long-term relationship. All this changes when he rescues Chase Mackenzie.
Chase is a runaway who has been kept as a slave since he was sixteen. Now twenty-three, he’s still innocent and sweet despite being severely abused and left behind by his Dom.
When Devon finds out that the man who held Chase hostage is the same man who hurt him terribly when he started learning about the sub/Dom lifestyle, he knows he has to keep Chase safe.
Spoiled rich boy and sociopath James Kingston is obsessed with Devon. He’s convinced Devon would be his perfect sub and Devon only thinks he’s a Dom because he needs proper discipline. Losing Chase to Devon is like rubbing salt in the wound, and he’s determined to get them both under thumb. This time, Chase may need to rescue Devon.
I look forward to spending the day with you all and lets have a little fun! I’d love to answer any questions you might have.
January 9, 2014
Tell me what your favorite cupcake is for a chance to win a copy of Cupcakes! (Recipes are not necessary, but encouraged.)
I’ll pull a winner tomorrow after noon so all time zones get a chance to comment.
December 11, 2013
I probably should have posted this a lot sooner!
Since I need to take a break for an evening class for a few hours, here’s your chance to ask me any questions about me, my books at Dreamspinner or anything about writing.
A comment here will also get you an entry for my second giveaway. I’ll be back later to answer questions.
Since I also did not do a proper self-introduction before, here’s a bit about me and my writing.
I’m EM Lynley, and everyone calls me “Em,” which is easier to say than “E M,” right?
I write only m/m erotic romance, and have been with Dreamspinner since 2009. Most of my work is contemporary, and just about all of it has a mystery/suspense element, since that’s my favorite genre to read.
I am trying some new things and expect to be writing some paranormal/fantasy in the future! I recently finished a BDSM mystery/suspense novel for Dreamspinner. I can tell you the research for that was fun!
I am a former economist, so many of my books have a financial element too. Now I’m living near San Francisco, and I’ve worked in London, Tokyo, and Washington, D.C.
Some of my guilty pleasures: 80′s music, the TV show White Collar, and just about anything that has coconut or watermelon in it.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? Got a question you want to ask about or any of my series or characters? If you’ve read any of my stories, I’d love to know what you thought of them.
December 11, 2013
So, why firemen?
The real question is why not?
I’ve enjoyed reading stories about firefighters for years (Chris Owen, Damon Suede, Andrew Grey, among others) and I realized there were plenty of great storylines to use between a chef and a firefighter. Once I decided to set the story at Christmas, it was so easy to find just the right story.
Firefighters are well-known in the United States for doing charity work, fundraising, almost anything that helps kids. If my chef is also big on working with a kids’ charity, it was the perfect place for them to find their interests overlapping.
I didn’t think much about the research before I started writing. I admit I don’t know much about firefighters, but I definitely wanted to understand what these men and women think and feel when they are doing their jobs.
A couple of years ago there was a terrible fire here in San Francisco and two firefighters were killed. It may not seem like much, but losing two men the same day greatly affected the entire area—the whole state. A huge funeral was held with 5,000 people in attendance. Friends, family and fellow firefighters spoke about the two men for hours.
What struck me most about the funeral—which was shown on live TV because it was a huge event for the city—was the kind of stories told about the men. Little anecdotes about how they helped people at a fire, or what they said while rescuing someone, or examples of how dedicated they were to their jobs. I realized I had a special glimpse into their world through the eulogies and stories.
When working on Gingerbread Palace, I watched firefighter training videos, read first-hand accounts of fires and injuries, and had a firefighter beta the story. I still don’t think I got enough into the mind of Kevin Flint to know how he thinks, but I do feel an even greater sense of respect for the dedication and sacrifice that firefighters make to help keep others safe.
I enjoyed the research and it affected me so much, I intend to write another story with firefighters. It may be more about Kevin and Alex, or another completely different set of characters, but firefighters are in my brain and I want to explore their world in much more detail.
Leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway
Do you enjoy firefighter stories in general? What are your favorite books about firefighters?
Did you want to be a firefighter when you were a kid?
Saving Sonny James: the X-excerpt you never expected to see (and the final contest! win book money!)
October 22, 2013
All you have to do is comment in reply to this post, anywhere in this release party, with the words “book money” somewhere in the comment, and you’re in the running for $20 on your account at Dreamspinner to spend as you like and Saving Sonny James paperback or ebook.
THE night after Luki talked to Kaholo was the first one in a couple weeks that found him struggling to find sleep. Finally, he allowed his thoughts to drift toward his husband and his fingers to drift toward his restless sex.
Once he started remembering and imagining his tall, dark, lithe lover, he couldn’t stop. And once Sonny’s beauty entered and filled his aching, sweet, waking dream, his hands wouldn’t stop. His neglected penis thickened and leaked and begged, and though Luki couldn’t remember the last time he’d masturbated, he got right with the program.
Not content to jerk off quickly in a half somnolent fashion, he sat up and stripped his lower half naked, switched on the small light next to the bed, and spread his legs wide, knees up, so he could see. Smiling at himself and thinking of Sonny, he ran his palm over the wide, glistening head of his cock and gathered a little reservoir of precum, then brought it to his mouth and dragged his tongue through it. He chuckled, then bit his lip. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but of course his own product, though tasty, wasn’t nearly as sweet as Sonny’s. Briefly he wondered why he could remember Sonny’s flavor so clearly, but he couldn’t remember the particulars of any other man he’d tasted—and of course there had been a few.
Knowing the experience wouldn’t come close to sex with beautiful Sonny,
Luki decided nevertheless to take it slow, make a feast of the masturbation experience. He handled his hardening testes, running his hands over the silky skin, watching the motion, pretending they were Sonny’s long fingers, pretending the balls he cradled in his own hands were Sonny’s. It didn’t quite work—the differences in anatomy meant Luki really had to work at the imagining, but he persisted, and if it wasn’t perfect, it was good. Next, using spit and precum for lube, he let his fingers wander over his perineum and straight into his ass. All other considerations aside, Luki liked getting fucked, had liked it from the very first time. Other considerations meant he craved the top role more than the bottom, but sometimes Sonny….
“Oh, Sonny,” he whispered, feeling Sonny’s long, straight erection rather than his own two digits. The fingers weren’t quite adequate, but they were a passable substitute as long as he doggedly kept his fantasy in mind. He drew his fingers out then slammed them back in, rough, speeding up and finding a rhythm, relishing the burn and—even though it was a bit of a reach—managing to tap his prostate, stimulating the deep pleasure the little gland had to offer.
He could have come to orgasm with just that, but he didn’t want to, so he gentled the motion and slowed the rhythm almost to a stop. He reached for his cock with his other hand, stroked it once, twice, but stopped that too and instead pinched first one nipple then the other. He made it hurt, made the nipples red and puckered, hard nubs standing out like markers, which was so pleasurable that again he thought he might come. He stopped, wet his fingers in his mouth, and soothed the same nipples he’d just tortured.
Again he said, “Oh, Sonny,” and now he started to stroke, twisting a bit, running his thumb over the slick head. In no time—too soon he thought—he felt his orgasm begin to insist, to rise, to gather force, and then he exploded, groaning out Sonny’s name over and over in a tortured, raspy cry.
He felt mildly strange when it was over, laughed at himself a little, even. But after he cleaned up, he slept well, and he dreamed only of his love. It was good.
October 22, 2013
Quick question: Who is the fab artist responsible for all the wonderful Vasquez and James covers?
Answer can be found here at the Dreamspinner Store.
A comment here with your answer enters you for a signed paperback of Saving Sonny James (or an ebook if you prefer).
Next, an excerpt.
September 2, 2013
When I set out to write North Star and Spark in particular, I knew one of my challenges was making it believable that Hugo Thorson and Kevin Magnus could have such a strong connection once they see each other again after their high school romance ended. I could’ve easily written a paragraph or two about how they’d been hot for each other as teens, but I knew that would create a paltry connection for readers compared to what the characters’ emotions truly were. I wanted readers to see how intensely these men loved when they were boys, so my path was pretty well set up for me. I have basically written two love stories in one book between the same men.
About a third of Spark is the coming-of-age story of Hugo and Kevin. I wanted readers to understand the foundation these men will eventually be building on. They meet in high school and start out as friends. Eventually it becomes more, but that doesn’t mean things go smoothly for them. At all. There are several challenges they have to navigate, and the issues that arise are challenging for adults, let alone sixteen-year-olds.
Another reason I wanted to explore these two men as boys was to see where they started. Family is very important to this story and these characters, and their history certainly affects them for the rest of North Star, from interpersonal dynamics to what they value.
Then Hugo and Kevin meet again years later, and they both feel their attraction almost immediately reignite. That doesn’t mean there aren’t doubts or real-life obstacles to get in the way. There certainly are, because life at thirty-five is often more complicated than it was at sixteen. At least for the weekend at the lake when they meet again, they try to make it as simple as they can. They’re just two men attracted to each other. After that weekend, they need to figure out how a relationship could possibly work.
Here’s a little taste from Spark, Chapter 4 of Hugo and Kevin’s first conversation after a seventeen-year separation. You can read it, or you can listen to me reading it by clicking the link below. Or you can even read and listen at the same time. I apologize ahead of time for not sounding like a sexy man at all.
Kevin laughed deep and warm in his chest and stopped walking, pulling Hugo to a stop with him. “God, Hugo. I missed you. You always did know what to say to make me feel better. How the heck did we ever lose track of each other after everything we discovered together?”
Hugo shrugged, not knowing how to answer after their gradual drift from talking on a regular basis during their first month in college to nothing by the time winter break came. Hugo’s mom and sister had moved to the Twin Cities mere months after Hugo left for college, and that certainly hadn’t helped matters. But it was more, he realized.
“We just had different lives, I think,” Hugo said with a shrug. “We went our separate ways after I said good-bye to you in your driveway.”
“I still regret not kissing you that day. I should have just said ‘screw it’ and kissed you like I wanted to, even if my dad was right there.”
Hugo looked up the few inches to meet Kevin’s gray eyes and tried to smile, but it probably came across more as sadness than a smile. He couldn’t believe Kevin still thought of that day too. He wondered if Kevin’s mind ever drifted to the kiss in the wooded meadow when he was bored in a meeting or like Hugo’s had that very afternoon in the car. Slowly, he felt the corner of his mouth turn into something akin to flirty, and he asked, “Oh?”
“Yes,” Kevin said as his warm thumb trailed across Hugo’s jaw toward his chin. “I’ve thought about that day a lot, about our last kiss and how I wish it never would’ve ended. Damn the rain. Would you mind if I showed you how I’ve always imagined that moment in the driveway would’ve happened? Or are you with someone?”
“No. I mean, yes, you can show me,” Hugo stammered, his heart beating hard against his chest.
Kevin’s smile lit up his face, and he looked so young just then, the careworn lines that had appeared between his brows while talking about his father smoothing.
“Okay, so maybe this isn’t exactly like I would have said things back then, but this is how I wish I would’ve done it. Ready?”
Hugo nodded and licked his lips, drawing Kevin’s attention to his mouth.
“So pretend we’re standing next to my open trunk,” Kevin directed as he led Hugo near the tail end of a car parked in a driveway close to the roadside. Kevin tilted his head left and right, shaking his hands out loosely next to his body as if trying to get into character.
“Hugo,” he started, somehow pulling youthful nervousness into his voice, “we should plan on getting together in a few weeks.”
“Sure,” Hugo answered, ready to play along with the conversation he barely remembered. He recalled the feelings he’d had, though: excitement about leaving Austin but sadness about leaving Kevin. “I can get a ride down to St. Peter, or you can come up to Minneapolis. It’s not that far.”
That drive never ended up happening for either of them because Hugo auditioned for a play in the U’s theater department and got a lead role as a freshman, something unheard of. He had no time to get together on weekends because he had homework to do and lines to memorize and blocking to learn and sets to help build.
“Seventy miles or so.”
That’s where Hugo vaguely remembered Kevin’s dad clapping his big hands and telling Kevin he’d better hit the road. Now there was just the sound of far-off waves and traffic from the highway on the other side of the trees peppered with exploding fireworks.
“I’d love that,” Hugo said, regretful he hadn’t taken the time to find a ride and just go. “I’ll make it happen,” he promised, and he wished he’d kept it.
Kevin looked at Hugo with such intensity; even in the darkness surrounding them, Hugo could see how blown Kevin’s pupils were.
“It’ll happen this time,” Kevin whispered against Hugo’s mouth, lazily closing his eyes as he spoke.
Hugo tasted Kevin’s breath on his tongue, remembering it, even with the faint scent of lemon lingering. A silvery thread of his memory seemed to actually weave this moment to the moments in his past, pushing Hugo back into that world, filling him with all those emotions he had for Kevin when they were just boys. Kevin was the only man Hugo had really and truly been in love with. He was the ruler every single boyfriend since had to unwittingly measure himself against. And none, not a single one, had ever gotten anywhere near.
Hugo took in a quick breath and pushed forward, capturing Kevin’s mouth with his own as his fingers threaded through thick blond waves and shorter razor-cut strands; his hands landed on Kevin’s neck. Hugo thumbed over Kevin’s ears, allowing the pads of his fingers to tease the fine hair along his earlobes.
They fused their mouths, opening and closing with lips caressing, teeth nipping, and tongues pushing against each other in an attempt to taste the familiarity that was new again.
Kevin trailed his hands down Hugo’s back, kneading his fingers against Hugo’s ass once he got there, then pulling them closer. Hugo felt Kevin starting to firm up beneath the thin material of his shorts, and he wanted so badly to thrust. He barely restrained himself.
They stood on a darkened road and kissed how they both wished they would have years ago, giving to each other more than they took away. But by doing it that way, Hugo felt more content than he had in years.
“Come back to my place?” Kevin panted against Hugo’s temple. “Please, Hugh?”
Hugo nodded as he tried to catch his breath and then nodded again.
You know those moments when you see someone after years and years? They can sure be awkward. Or they can be great! What sorts of experiences have you had? For the record, I’ve avoided high school reunions for this reason. If you share, I’ll enter you in a drawing for one of three free eBook copies of Spark.
Oh, and just for the heck of it, click here to listen to me read another clip from Chapter 4 that I lovingly call buttboy1978. :)
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.
“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.”
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?”
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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.