Jae Fields sat in front of Adversary editor-in-chief Alonso Vega’s desk, picking a piece of imaginary lint off the sleeve of his military-inspired coat. Vega leaned back in his expansive leather chair and drummed his fingers on the plushly upholstered armrest. “And this is newsworthy? Who cares about romance novelists?” He sat up. “Don’t you have something more important to write about?”
“This is important. We always, always out the actor or politician who pretends to be straight for filthy lucre. Why not out someone doing the opposite?”
“Because it’s a harmless dodge and one that doesn’t have any significance with how people perceive homosexuals.” Vega was almost through with him. Jae could tell by the way he glanced at the clock on the wall.
“It just pisses me off. Fraud.” He tried to look suitably idealistic.
“I see. This woman is a poseur so she’s newsworthy. I hate to tell you this but you can’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a poseur. I’ll give you two days to come up with a better reason to go after her than that she pisses you off, Fields. Find something that makes some sort of damn sense. Like she’s advocating the use of unsafe butt plugs or something. Anything, because a personal crusade isn’t what we do here.”
Jae contemplated this. “I thought that crusade was exactly what we do here.”
“Yes.” Vega stood, clearly intent on ushering him out of his office manually. “But we have to pick our infidels, don’t we?” The door closed in Jae’s face before he could reply.
On the way back to his cubicle Jae saw Shannon Israel pop like a prairie dog from behind an oatmeal-colored partition. “What did he say?”
“I’ve got two days. I have to make my case in two days or I can forget it and he’ll assign me something else.” Two more heads popped up to his left.
“Have you read the book yet? It’s actually good. Hilarious. Here…” Bill Parker pulled his copy of Windows up from behind the wall like a puppet and waved it. He read an excerpt that made Shannon blanch. “He kills me.”
Jae gave her a hard stare, but she cursed soundly. “Oh, if that were only true.”
“Shannon?” said Bill.
“Shut up.” His head dropped below the cubicle visibility line. Shannon’s followed it down.
“Sorry to rain on the gay-pride parade,” she muttered, a disembodied voice floating over the rows of partitions. “I’m just saying… That’s all I’m saying.”
“And yet,” Bill snarked, “you continue to say it, over and over, until we’re all sick to death.”
“Not me,” Abby, Shannon’s office BFF called out, from somewhere beyond the first line of industrial partitions.
“Thanks, baby,” said Shannon.
“’Course, I hate to say it,” Abby continued, “but I loved this book. I howled with laughter. It kind of reminded me of Tom Jones, or Fannie. Sorry, Jae. Love you.”
Everyone’s desktop pinged at once, and when Jae got there he had a global instant message that read, “Suck up,” from Bill.
He noticed his own copy of Windows lying on his desk. It wasn’t the book. It wasn’t even the writing, which, he had to admit, if you took it as satire, was…extremely funny. It wasn’t even, though he could make a case, that the book had been written from a gay man’s perspective by what was obviously not a man at all.
It was that she’d called it Windows, a not-so-subtle reference to the one and only thing Jae still held sacred from high school years he’d rather forget:Doorways, the coming-of-age novel by Kieran Anders.
Jae had read the cover off that book by the time he was sixteen and knew it practically by heart. So when someone he knew mentioned to him that the book Windows by Kelly Kendall could be considered an affectionate homage, he’d picked it up, in print no less, rather than e-book format, and had been appalled to see that it was less an homage than a blatant rip-off, a travesty of bad taste and worse writing and just plain porn.
Jae read it in horror, cover to cover, exhibiting the very inability to put down a book, no matter how bad, which formed the heart of his desire to write. He’d finished it and shaken it out of his hand with the vague sense that it clung there like something sticky and that everyone else could tell he’d read it simply by looking at him.
It’s not that he wasn’t a big fan of porn. He was. Maybe the book even gave him a boner or two. But no one, no one messed with Doorways on his watch.
It was time to share the love, he decided, launching his web browser. He’d had to search out Kendall’s email address from the woman’s publisher, Diabolique Press. Unlike most writers, she had no website or blog that Jae could find. She was apparently reclusive in the extreme. There was a tiny blurb about her, and when asked, by one Sberryfields, Jae’s porn-buying alter ego, her publisher had given him an email address and directed him to write to “Kelly Kendall” there.
He felt Shannon ease up behind him and absently reached out a hand to pat her.
“This guy really bugs you, doesn’t he?” she asked.
“She does. Yes.”
“What makes you so sure it’s a woman? It might be he’s just exactly what he says.” She put a fresh cup of coffee by his elbow and he smiled up at her in thanks.
“No way a gay man is going to send up Doorways.” Jae shook his head. “It’s…like…the holy grail of coming-out novels. Catcher in the Rye for those of us not destined to be homicidal assholes.”
Shannon smiled. “Ah. The sacred author Kieran Anders.”
“Yeah.” He turned back to the computer. “I’m on my sixth copy. My first disintegrated from adolescent tears, the next three I inscribed and gave to the first three boys I thought could be ‘the one’, the fifth was stolen by a certain film star who didn’t exactly remain anonymous after he spent the night with me, and the one I have now? I keep in a safe.” He sighed. “I guess you could say it’s special to me.”
“So our Mr. Kendall treads on sacred ground.”
“Yep.” Jae tapped a few words out on the edit profile screen. “Should I be SberryFields, or go to the full-length StrawberryFields?”
“What about KillingFields?”
He grinned. “That’s my profile at LiveJournal. I’m making something up that sounds girly for MySpace so I look like any other fangirl if Kendall decides to check me out.”
“Oh, SberryFields then, it has fewer letters to type.”
“Got it… I thought so too. Thanks.”
“You going to just write a fan letter?” She leaned her hip on his desk. “Going under cover?”
“Yep.” He didn’t look up. “See me. See me squee.”
“Go get her, tiger.” She moved away after a moment and he was glad. This was personal somehow and he wanted to get on with it.
Jae smiled. Oh yes. Let the word go forth to those rapacious enough to pimp the book Doorways for their own financial gain. Jae-sun Fields was not about to stand idly by and watch that happen.
* * *
Kelly Mackay was up to his balls in the sheer pleasure of being Kelly Mackay. Will Lanier, houseboy, factotum and general all-around slut was rubbing his shoulders, having just brought in a steaming mug of tea. The appointment with his tax accountant was postponed due to illness and he’d beaten the deadline for his latest screenplay by twenty-four hours. That meant he was free to spend the whole, entire, luxurious day doing nothing. He could read a good book, answer emails, lie in bed all day watching Doctor Who on video, or just lie naked on the living room floor and count the cobwebs on the ceiling. If Will were the type to let any linger.
Will’s magical fingers kneaded out any remaining tension.
“You’re sure you got it right?” Kelly asked. “The appointment has been cancelled?”
“Yes. I got it right. The man has the flu; he could barely talk. He said he’d see you next week probably. Maybe longer.”
“I hate to hope it will take him a long time to get better.” Kelly frowned.
“But you do.” Will thumped his back and started picking up the books Kelly had been looking at the night before. They were all over his elegantly spare office. On the floor, covering the large mahogany desk, lying open, spines up, even though Will lectured him endlessly. It was the one thing he did that was careless, leaving the books like that.
“Not that one, I’m still going over it.” Kelly held out his hand and Will handed him the book. Kelly smacked Will’s luscious ass with it as the younger man leaned over a file box to retrieve a magazine. “I have a ton of—”
“Nothing doing.” Will leaped neatly out of the way before Kelly could land a second swat. “You are going to relax if I have to bend myself over every piece of furniture in this house to get you to do it.” He demonstrated a deep forward bend, with not a little shimmy in it, and winked from between his legs.
That drew a look from Kelly. “Excuse me?”
“Figure of speech.” Will stood.
“Ouch.” Will’s eyebrows shot up. “Somebody’s pissy this morning.”
“I’m not pissy.” Kelly got up and moved to the window. “Sorry.” He held his arm out to Will and the kid slid under it. At five ten Kelly wasn’t the tallest man, but Will was half a head again shorter. He had close-cropped bleached hair and eyes that had seen some pretty hard times. When he’d first met Will, Kelly hired him to do odd secretarial work on the recommendation of an older friend. Since then he’d wondered if the older man wasn’t passing along a beloved pet he no longer felt up to caring for.
Will didn’t talk much about his past, except to say that he’d survived it. The pain of that hadn’t quite left him yet. Since Will moved in Kelly had been awakened at all hours by the sound of Will’s nightmares, sometimes even sobbing, coming from the next room.
Kelly gave the kid a squeeze and a kiss on the top of the head.
Kelly had experienced an instant affinity for Will, whose outlandish behavior was the perfect antidote for his own inflexible personality. Will disengaged himself and started out of Kelly’s office. They’d been true friends, with benefits off and on since the beginning. Mostly Kelly encouraged Will to find friends his own age to play. Still, watching that ass swing out of the room…
Will turned as if he knew. “Okay, if you’re not going take me up on my generous offer, I’m going to clean.” He shot Kelly a look as he left.
“It’s not that I don’t love you.”
“I know. But you’re old and you don’t have it in you. I understand,” Will called from the kitchen.
“Hey.” Kelly was stung.
“I’m kidding you. I’ll make your favorite for lunch as an apology. If you can’t resist me then, it’s okay too.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.” Kelly shook his head and closed his office door with a snap. “Thirty-eight isn’t old,” he muttered. “I’ll give you old, you little pisher. I jogged five miles on the treadmill this morning. Old…”
Kelly opened the first of about a hundred emails that crowded his inbox, then acknowledged the sender and kept on, answering questions, fielding mail, finding ways to keep from revealing himself when asked revealing questions. He worked in this way for about an hour, amazed, as always, that he should be the object of such speculation. Furthermore, what was most alarming, that he should have become, almost overnight, the focal point of a rapidly growing readership of interested women.
That was what came from writing a gay porn novel, for fun, because at Will’s urging, he’d penned a simple parody of his own novel Doorways. In it he’d transformed its confused hero into a kind of boy Collete à L’ecole of epically energetic proportions. He’d gently satirized himself, which as far as he could tell was his own damned prerogative, and suddenly, inexplicably, he’d gotten hundreds of email responses from, of all people, women. Most of whom hadn’t the faintest idea he’d written the first book at all. Or that it even existed.
If he’d known that this would happen, he’d never have let Will set up an email account for him. He’d been content, since computers had been invented, to confine himself solely to the word processing software that came with them. Even that had been a stretch, as he’d preferred to use a yellow legal pad and a number two pencil, sharpened to a lethal point (but only if it still had a perfectly pristine eraser).
Kelly enjoyed getting the letters. He just had no idea what to do with people who were really complimentary, always wanting to look behind the email for a gag. Like he was being punk’d. His own insecurity notwithstanding, he was afraid that might have something to do with the nature of the book.
Sure, he’d had fun writing it. But it was largely done as a dare with his tongue firmly between his cheeks. It was actually the best time he’d ever had writing anything, because he’d shared it with Will, his one true friend.
The last email was…arresting. Someone named SberryFields wanted to know if he was planning to continue what she called the “Freddie Legacy”, and in the email she postulated a number of possible future titles. She was loquacious and articulate, and alarmingly chipper, and he slumped into his seat with the awful feeling that this was all his life would hold for him from that moment on.
“Will?” Kelly shouted, only to find the very man in question a mere few inches away reading the email from behind him. Kelly put a hand on his chest to calm his racing heart. “When did you get here?”
“Just now, when you called.” Will glanced up at him with clear blue eyes. “What’s the problem?”
“Were you aware, when you got me into this mess, that Windows would be the most popular work of my entire career?”
“I’m sorry, honey.” Will gazed at him with sincere sympathy. “But seriously. Have you read your other stuff?”