I uploaded a free story, When Angels Fall, to Smashwords. The reason I did this is because it’s a story I wrote for my friend Patric Michael, and it’s meaningful to me. I’ve given this story away in a lot of different places, it’s not new. It’s only that I really feel that it deserved to be a single title with a great cover out there, free to anyone who wants to read it. Love is a funny thing. The more you give away, the more you have. You can download this title for free, here: When Angels Fall
Happy Friday. You never get too old to glam it up. At least that’s what I say. I’m living proof that inside the heart of every aging femme fatale there’s a six year old girl who just cant WAIT until she’s tall enough to see over the makeup counter.
To that end, I’ve endured some facials, some deforestation, some exfoliation, some dyeing and cutting and fluffing and the foolishness of makeup I would ordinarily never wear to a cockfight. I will either look like um… a well-groomed romance writer or a worst celebrity mug shot. And the best part is… if you’re in Philadelphia next weekend, you can find out which!
I’m going to be with a lot of my fellow authors and friends in Philadelphia — Aug 11 through the 13 — for the Author’s After Dark conference. I’ll be reconnecting with some old friends, writers and readers alike, and I hope to be meeting up with new ones. If anyone is going to be in the area, the authors of MLR Press will be at Giovanni’s Room on Friday, August 12, 2011, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
I’m going to be signing, giving out swag, going on a ghost tour, and checking out The City of Brotherly Love, and I hope I get the chance to see you there!
If you’re attending, be sure to come and say hello ~
My screwball comedy, Rhapsody For Piano and Ghost, is now available at Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, and wherever fine ebooks are sold…:D
Buy at Amazon HERE
Buy at All Romance Ebooks HERE
Forty-five minutes after one of the more humiliating phone calls of Fitz’s life, Ari Scheffield roared up to the curb in his silver special edition Porsche Boxster S.
Ari had the top down, allowing the wind to blow his hair around as if it simply loved him and couldn’t help itself. As always he arrived looking more like a runway model than a forensic accountant. His auburn hair blazed fiery under the bright sunshine, and the scruff of his morning beard winked like gold. He had on sunglasses that hid his eyes, but Fitz knew they raked him over, judging his every molecule and finding each one more unsatisfactory than the last. As he reached over to unlock the passenger door of the hot little car, Fitz would have bet good money that Ari knew he was attracting the attention of every damned person on the street. And that he loved every second of it.
Ari slid the sunglasses down his nose with a fuck-you finger and frowned at him. “Are you panhandling now?”
“No.” Fitz ground his molars together. “I am not panhandling.”
“Jeez, Flitz. Your mom’s been gone what? Three months? And already you’re like some homeless –”
“It’s not what it looks like, Ariel.”
“What it looks like is bad enough.” Ari waited for him to put on his seat belt and then gunned the engine, whipping out into traffic and firing the afterburners to blast through a perfectly orange light.
“Ha, ha.” Fitz settled for holding tightly to his bowl because the convertible didn’t have a bar on the roof to grab. “Just now you probably got your picture taken by the red light cam.”
“There isn’t one in that intersection. Did you want to drive yourself home?” Ari asked smugly. “Oh wait, I forgot. You don’t drive. Why is that again?”
“You know why,” Fitz muttered. Every time he and Ari had to spend ten minutes together, his jaw snapped shut and he talked through his teeth. Situational TMJ disorder.
“I remember now. It was a small matter of your mother’s Mercedes and a swimming pool, wasn’t it?” Ari turned to him and grinned. There was probably fifteen thousand dollars’ worth of orthodontia in that smile. Fitz had seen the pictures of Ari as a child, and at one time they’d given him hope that his own shortcomings could be overcome by the absurd amount of money his mother was willing to throw at them. Now Ari’s magnificently even, white teeth just pissed him off.
“Listen, liebling, when your mom left, she asked me to be on you like sweat, and I have to tell you, that’s not really my best-case scenario.” Ari turned back to watch the road. “I don’t care where you were yesterday, but now that you’ve gotten me involved, there have to be rules, you know?”
“What do you mean, rules?” Fitz had a very bad feeling about this.
“She’s worried about you, man.”
“Yet here I am, picking you up because you have no cash, no phone, and you had no clue where you were.”
Fitz remained silent. What could he say? Ari was right.
Ari shot him another look. “But I must say that’s a very fine bowl.”
“It’s a cassole.” Fitz cradled the solid bulk of the bowl in his lap. With every mile Ari drove, the previous night and the strange men Fitz had met seemed more like something from a dream.
The view beyond the passenger door occupied Fitz’s attention for a while. They sped past the many strip malls and coffee joints that made up his corner of Los Angeles, dog groomers with exclusive pet-treat bakeries, the brushless car wash/Internet café/four-star-fast-food places, and the Botox-in-a-box med spas that seemed to have mushroomed around his home over the years.
He stayed silent until at last they pulled into his neighborhood and traveled the winding streets past hoards of men with lawn mowers and women pushing top-of-the-line strollers.
“You can tell me if you’re in some kind of trouble, you know,” Ari said as he pulled into the drive at Adelaide’s place. “We can talk about anything.”
Fitz bit his lip and considered it. “How long does ecstasy stay in your system?”
Ari’s shoulders tightened, and he looked away. “Aw, shit, Fitz. At the very least, I didn’t think you were stupid enough to get yourself involved in drugs.”
“Right.” Fitz hit the seat belt button, then grabbed his bowl and shoved his way out of the car. “But I can come to you about anything.”
“Wait.” To his credit, Ari got out and rounded the car. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. But you know how I feel about drugs, Fitz. They make you stupid. Do you want to throw your whole future away?”
“It’s not like that –”
“You have a gift, you know. Everyone in your life has made sacrifices to help you nurture that, but if you throw it away…that’s just not okay.”
Fitz didn’t blame him for reacting that way. He’d have said the same thing if the situation were reversed. Except it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Ari would never let himself be talked into anything as asinine as the stuff that Garrett had gotten Fitz to do the night before. Ari was perfect. He couldn’t get the paper in the morning without the neighbors breaking into applause.
“You think I’m gifted?” Fitz bit at the apple of Ari’s praise and regretted it immediately.
Seeing his opening, Ari took it. “Well…maybe just special.”
Fitz turned on his heel and walked away.
“Stop.” Ari followed Fitz as he headed for the door. “I’m sorry. I don’t know how long ecstasy stays in your system. Why?”
“I took something my friend Garrett said was X.” Fitz held his hand up in case Ari was planning to lob another insult. “Don’t bother. I know. It was a bonehead thing to do. I felt really awful when I was on it last night. I think I imagined some stuff.”
“Hallucinated, you mean.”
That was as good a way of putting it as any. Except he’d touched Serge when he’d tried to read the tattoo on his arm, and he’d felt as real as anything. As real as Fitz’s own arm or the cassole he’d been holding. Fitz clutched his pot tighter. “Yeah.”
Ari frowned and looked him over carefully. “How much sleep have you gotten lately?”
“Look, I promised to meet my friend Alex for brunch, but can I come get you later? Maybe we can have dinner?”
Fitz immediately shook his head. “No way. Why?”
“I promised your mom I’d keep you out of trouble while she’s in France.”
“Tell her you couldn’t find me.”
“C’mon, Fitz.” Ari at his most charming was lethal, and he knew it. He removed his sunglasses to reveal eyes so big, so green and luminous you could see them from space. Once again Fitz was on the receiving end of his engaging — if preternaturally perfect — smile.
“All right, but you’re buying,” Fitz muttered.
“That’s the spirit.” Ari clapped him on the back, and Fitz nearly went flying.
“See you later.”
“I’ll text you.” Ari put his sunglasses on again and went back to his car, laughing at his own joke. “Oops. I forgot. You don’t have a phone.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Fitz turned away.
“I’ll be here at four to take you to get a new one. Be ready.”
“What?” Ari called out. “I didn’t hear that.” He gunned his engine again and backed down the driveway before Fitz could respond. He wouldn’t respond anyway. Why would he? It never failed that he looked like an asshole next to Ari. But in a way…? He’d always been awed by the wretched man, like Fitz was one of those people in the rainforest who had never been touched by civilization and Ari was the first airplane to fly overhead.
Fitz turned his attention to the keypad lock. His inability to keep track of his keys was only one reason Adelaide’d had it installed. The fact that it could be opened by satellite came in handy in case she married someone who forgot the complex four-number combination to unlock it. He punched in his code and walked into their house. There was a large foyer with an eye-catching marble medallion on the floor, over which Adelaide’s designer had placed a round table that always held a vase of spectacular, seasonal flowers. That table did double duty, much to Adelaide’s horror, as a place for Fitz to drop whatever he brought in from the outside world.
Julian’s cassole finally found safe harbor among CDs, electronic equipment, flyers, mail, and all the other flotsam and jetsam of Fitz’s forays out. When Adelaide traveled, there was no one to sweep it off into the trash bin every five minutes, so it piled up until Marguerite, who came in Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, could ride him about it.
For a moment he stood in the foyer, simply glad to be home. Its grandeur always made him feel like the exception to the rule, the small, nearly raggedy boy inside the giant gilded cage. He half expected some huge, luxurious pet — one of Siegfried and Roy’s white tigers — to pad down the sweeping staircase and eat him.
Originally he’d planned to shower and change, but he made his way to the kitchen instead, where he could scrub his hands. He hadn’t realized how much he’d yearned for the comfort of the single most important thing in his life until he’d seen it from the entryway, waiting for him. His piano pouted, accusing him of ignoring it. Suddenly he couldn’t get to it fast enough.
The bench waited, pushed slightly askew where he’d left it before his disastrous evening with Garrett and his odd experience with Julian and Serge. Back when he’d still had a date with his crush to look forward to.
It had taken nearly two months of cultivation, of Garrett’s excuses and Fitz’s reticence, of poor planning and worse timing, but they’d finally gone on their date. All along Fitz had signed Garrett into classes he never attended and patiently believed Garrett’s promises. All along he’d listened to Garrett’s excuses about not having enough money to get him through each week. Garrett always seemed so sure that if he just had a little cash, things would work out for them.
Like an idiot, Fitz had given him money, and the rest — as they say — was history.
It might have even been bearable if he hadn’t had to ask Ari, of all people, for help.
Fitz stood before the keyboard of his piano. With the precision of ancient muscle memory, he pulled the bench beneath him to the exact place he needed it to be to reach the pedals and still maintain correct posture. He rested hands lightly on the keys. With each silent touch, his fingertips feathered lightly over the surface of the instrument. It was a ritual of sorts, the foreplay of a lover coming home. When at last he began a series of arpeggios, it was an exercise, another ritual, to warm up his fingers first, then his hands, his arms, and the muscles in his back until the music flowed from every part of him, until every cell of his body was engaged.
He remembered starting out so small his mother had to lift him to the bench. He still faced the instrument in exactly the same way. At that age, he’d fancied the piano was a kind of entity. The Bösendorfer was no more an instrument than it was furniture; it simply existed in his living room, waiting, ready to play with him and for him — to add its unique voice to Fitz’s long hours of practice in the special magic of bringing a long-dead composer back to life.
There was a place to be shy. A place to be uncertain and nineteen. A place in his life where someone like Garrett could come along and mess with him because he was young and needy and naive. But here, seated as he was with his most important childhood friend, ready to worship at the altar of the composers who filled his heart with passionate fire, was not that place.
Fitz’s fingers flew, and he filled the room with music.
Julian was graceful. Fitz had noticed a certain elegance in the way he’d moved when they’d walked here from the club. Julian’s every movement was fluid yet controlled, as if any lack of restraint would cause him to whirl off and perform some complicated ballet moves. His long legs were strong. Fitz could see the muscles of his calves and thighs under the drape of his trousers. His back was strong and straight while his shoulders were… Fitz swallowed. For an older guy, he was hot. Julian held his head to the side a little, like he was Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Fitz knew he’d been trained to dance like that. That it was something to do with…line, maybe. Julian’s was flawless. It was a pleasure to watch, so Fitz sat like a child at the top of the stairs and spied on them through the banisters.
“You still dance like a god,” Serge told Julian. He’d removed his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, revealing fine, strong forearms. His vest fit him snugly, accentuating broad shoulders and a trim waist.
“When I’m in your arms, I quite forget everything else.” Julian acted coy. He flirted more than anyone Fitz had ever seen, and Serge ate it up with a spoon.
“Perhaps we should find something more modern than a Strauss waltz.” Serge broke away and left Julian standing there. A moment later, Fitz heard the music change to some old song about a skylark.
“Et bien,” Serge said low in his throat, as if the act of speaking French caused his voice to deepen. “Viens avec moi, mon ange. Allons danser.”
“Oh, Serge,” Julian sighed. Serge pulled Julian to him again, this time more intimately. He slipped his hand around Julian’s waist but dropped it low, to the base of his spine, pulling him in tight. His other hand pressed Julian’s palm to his chest and held it there. Julian rested his head on Serge’s shoulder.
Fitz bit his lip. They were…amazing together. The contrast of Julian’s light hair and Serge’s dark; the way they rubbed their bristly cheeks together. It was an act as intimate as naked foreplay. Fitz shifted in his seat, stuck now, not wanting to rise from his perch because they might see him, and not really that thrilled to be sitting there watching because their mood was very clearly turning more romantic. Serge began to sing to Julian, a clear, lovely baritone voice that seemed to throb with desire.
Wow. What wouldn’t Fitz give to have someone hold him like that? The right someone, he clarified, not a guy who was going to try to get him high and then throw him into a trash bin because he refused to bend over in the bathroom…
Before he knew it, Fitz was blinking back tears.
Julian raised the hand he’d had draped around Serge’s neck and cupped the back of his head to pull him in for a kiss. And what a kiss it was. Fitz rolled his eyes. He would think two guys who’d been together long enough to finish each other’s sentences would have at least taken the edge off a little before then.
But Julian kissed Serge like it was time to get off the amphibious assault craft and storm the beach at Normandy. And Serge…well, Serge just worshipped Julian. Like he’d found the cure for cancer. And it went on and on, long after that skylark song was over and two more besides it, until something about nightingales came on and the two men were beginning to get touchy-feely.
By now Fitz couldn’t tear his gaze away. He hoped to heaven he didn’t have to wait until he was that old for some guy to want him like that. He was definitely going to have to head to bed before these two went any further, or he’d cream himself. It helped to remember he was wearing some unknown girl’s pajamas. He began to rise to his feet when a hush came over the room. The music had finished playing, but Serge and Julian still danced as though they heard it.
“Serge.” Julian tipped his head back to give Serge access to his neck. Fitz heard his moan — a low cry deep in his throat — when Serge bit down on the hump of muscle at the junction of his neck and shoulder. Both of Serge’s hands slipped down to Julian’s ass cheeks to hold him steady while they ground against one other.
“On y va?” Serge asked between kisses. “J’en ai besoin, mon ange.”
“Of course, my lover.” Julian pulled back to answer him. “I need you as well.”
Fitz saw Julian leap into Serge’s arms, and he wanted to hold up a score card or something, like a perfect 10.0 from the American judge, when Julian locked his ankles behind Serge’s back and Serge took his weight without skipping a beat. They rocked together briefly, sinuously, and then Serge began to move. Fitz assumed he was heading in the direction of the nearest bed and had a moment of blind panic when he realized they might head his way, up the stairs.
Instead they seemed to be going in the direction of the nearest wall, and Fitz’s heart nearly burst with joy. His mouth went dry, and he was alternately besieged by excitement and shame.
Ohcrapohcrapohcrap… Should he…could he watch?
On the one hand, Fitz would be delighted to see these two in action. He’d clearly underestimated the sheer, blessed hottitude that could exist between two weirdly handsome older guys. He and his dick were firmly and inconveniently engaged in an act of voyeurism the likes of which he’d never experienced since Adelaide’s second husband, Edward the Exhibitionist, went after the pool boy when Fitz was in second grade.
But back then the idea of a man getting banged by another man simply didn’t have the oompah it had for him now. He’d thought someone was going to be injured, and he’d been bewildered and hurt by Adelaide’s abrupt and angry reaction when he ran to her and reported what he’d seen.
Alternately — and more unfortunately — there seemed to be no getting rid of the deeply inculcated shame of that Irish-kid-from-a-Catholic-school upbringing. So naturally, generations of guilt weren’t wasting any time making him feel awful about watching virtual strangers get it on.
What to do?
Then his old guys did something so shocking that Fitz’s brain shorted out like a rat had chewed through his power cord.
When Fitz got up from where he’d fallen to the bottom of the steps, he thought maybe he’d imagined the whole thing. Or that he’d hit his head on the way down instead of just tripping a little while trying to flee and sliding down on his ass.
Because Serge and Julian had made their sexed-up, nugget-grinding way to the far wall of the living room, which was cream colored, wainscoted in white enameled paneling, and solid as…well…as any wall could ever be, and they’d simply…disappeared through it.
Fitz headed for the bedroom they’d left him in and crawled back into bed. Fucking Garrett and his damn drugs. Fucking ecstasy.
First he narrowly escaped getting his cherry popped in the bathroom of a damned club; then he woke up in a trash bin with some old English guy trying to yoink his jacket; next he hallucinated ballroom dancing and old guys making out and disappearing into thin air. He felt tears sting his eyelids but refused to give in to them.
He needed a good night’s sleep and maybe a quart of coffee in the morning and he’d be good as new.
Nothing good could come of that.
Very little that I’ve done puts me over the moon (beside my family). I mean, I live and work in a small Orange County suburb. I drive a soccer/jazz choir/orchestra mother-of-four car. I wear stretchy active wear pants. I know you didn’t really want to know all that, but it sets up how perfectly amazing this thing, this impossible thing that happened this morning makes me feel.
Remember when I found out from a librarian at that they have St. Nacho’s in some branch of the Chicago Public Library? ZOMG, that was a great feeling. Libraries are sacred!
Well, I discovered this, this morning:
I know it doesn’t look like much, but this is A Different Light Bookstore’s current homepage, and it has me in the form of Crossing Borders snuggled right up there next to Armistead Maupin. SQUEE!
I dunno. Stuff like that just KNOCKS my socks off. First of all, A Different Light Bookstore! That’s a fabulous bookstore. I couldn’t get arrested in there when I went to San Francisco to check it out the first time. They wouldn’t even order a book for me, going so far as to tell me that it was out of print. Which it wasn’t. I went back to the hotel room and bought it online at Amazon that afternoon.
ADL employees weren’t known, like Cecily from The Importance Of Being Ernest, for the sweetness of their disposition. Or maybe they just didn’t want to deal with women? The clerk was distinctly chilly to me, maybe because I had my adolescent son in tow. I was in San Francisco that time to Chaperone my kid’s GATE field trip. We stayed the weekend and decided to brave Castro because I’d read the ADL ad and wanted a copy of this book:
This is an awesome read, by the way.
At any rate, I came home to find it waiting on my doorstep, quickly fulfilled by the Amazon Wonder Elves. I fight the entity that is Amazon, (I picture I’m like one of those Apes at the beginning of 2001 and it’s the monolith) but I can say that when I went to ADL, a brick-and -morter bookstore because they purported to carry this item on their shelves, they sent me away empty handed and feeling like I ought to stick to sunning myself under the blue flashing light at K-mart. I also came home feeling that as a woman and a barely published author I didn’t have the right to walk into that store, and that I had probably never try to go back, even though at the time their best selling book was J.L. Langley’s The Tin Star.
This isn’t sour grapes by the way, because as proprietors of their store, they have a right to maintain any attitude they want. There are plenty of exclusive hair salons, for example, or clothing stores that would exclude me as a customer, (Pretty Woman, anyone?) because their cachet depends on keeping people like me out. That’s sad, but it’s true. It’s also entirely possible I caught the sales clerk on the day his dog threw up on his master’s thesis, his grandmother had a car accident, someone stole his motorcycle, or he was nursing a broken heart and his young lover’s disapproving mother looked JUST LIKE ME. Seriously. Who knows why things happen?
I never imagined I’d sell there, although I know they now carry my books in print at the store as well, or at least someone I know bought ePistols At Dawn there. And I never imagined I’d see myself all curled up with a brilliant author like Armistead Maupin, who I’m sure woke up this morning to the same ad and said, What the F*&K? I’m next to some soccer mom with a word processor and nothing better to do than write romance novels??? It’s all good, folks. Just a delight for me, as a writer, to see my work in that context.
And when you add to that the fact that my kid’s a cappella jazz choir sang the National Anthem for the Chivas v. Galaxy Soccer match last night (Galaxy #23 is hella hot, by the way.)
It’s a glorious day to be me!
You can check out the books at ADL, HERE