For a couple of 19th Century gentlemen, Commander William Marshall and Lt. David Archer have been surprisingly ready to accept the notion that people in the 21st Century might be interested in their lives. I say as much. Lt. Archer, leans back in his chair and shrugs.

Davy: And why not? I would leap at the chance to speak to Shakespeare, if he would explain the truth of the gentleman to whom he wrote his sonnets. The war in which we have been engaged must be important in your own history, and therefore interesting. Since you are addressing me in English, I venture to guess that England triumphed in her disagreement with Bonaparte?

LR: Yes, though it will be a long, bitter struggle. You were both right-the Peace of Amiens was only a break in the battle.

They are a study in contrasts-Will tall and slender, with dark eyes and what might be called a poet’s face, his gypsy-black hair still gathered in the old-fashioned sailor’s queue, David a little shorter but strongly built, thick blond hair cut in a neat cap that has the length of Regency fashion but not the affected classical style. But they both lean forward, the question written on their faces.

Will asks it: But England will win?

LR: Yes, decisively.

The gentlemen relax, exchange a smile, and Commander Marshall asks me to commence.

The first question is for him. One of the readers is curious to know what he would dream of spending his prize money on.

Will: (After a moment’s hesitation) I have no idea, really. The prize money sits in the bank. I am not one of those fools who risk all on a throw of the dice. You may think it strange, but my needs are very simple, and my pay is sufficient to cover them. A few pounds now and then, for a comfortable room and good food when we’re ashore, a Christmas treat for my crew… Someday, I suppose, when I leave the Service, I shall want a home, but that day seems a long way off. And-forgive me, ma’am, but most sailors do not make old bones. Ask me that question again, in twenty years’ time, and I may have an answer.

Davy: He’ll have a tidy fortune. Our prize agent is an honest man, and a clever one. We might find a quiet little place somewhere….

LR: : Would that be your choice-a home together, ashore?

Davy: Oh, yes, but I fear it’s a forlorn hope. I’ve grown a bit cynical on the subject of honor and glory-public honor, at least, as opposed to the personal sort-but I do not think I could coax Commander Marshall away from the Navy.

LR: Commander Marshall?

Will: Why hope for something we can never attain? You say that in your time, in England, we might live together openly. (He reaches out, unconsciously, and Davy takes his hand.) In our lifetime, that would be impossible.

LR: I’m afraid you’re right-and even two hundred years later, such freedom is not universal. But if we can move to a happier subject, a reader would like to know how you feel about one another. What do you think of Lt. Archer, sir?

Will: I … pardon me, but that seems a very bold question!

Davy: (grinning) The Commander is very shy, ma’am. Let me just step out of the room for a few moments, so my presence will not inhibit him! (leaves)

Will: (looks after him as though he’s about to leap up and leave, then settles back) What do I think of him? I have no words for that, he is the one whose head is full of poetry.

LR: Is it fair to say you hold him in high regard?

Will: Regard? Really, madam, regard? He is like my breath. Until we became … intimate, I do not think I was truly alive, and for all the joy he has given me, there is an equal measure of fear. (He is silent for a little while, then shakes his head.) As you apparently know, he has insisted upon staying in the Service with me, despite-what befell him last year. Mr. Archer has much more courage than I do. I tell you, I do not know what I should do if he were to be wounded again, or worse. I truly do not know if I will be able to command him in battle, when the Peace is broken.

LR: I thought you settled that question between yourselves, aboard the Mermaid.

Will: You could more accurately say he settled it. In my more sensible moments, I hope that I might be killed first, so that he would go ashore, out of harm’s way. If I had more sense and more self-discipline, I should send him away for his own safety and my peace of mind. I cannot. (He rises abruptly, glancing off to the next room.) I can say no more. Shall I send him in to spill all our secrets?

LR: Please.

He nods, and walks out. After a moment, Davy enters and reclaims his chair. I almost feel I should warn him of his lover’s misgivings, but that seems unfair. I find I need not have worried.

Davy: Poor Will. He’s still fretting over that target painted on my back, is he not?

LR: Well, you did nearly die, after all. He’s much more worried about you than about himself.

Davy: Yes. Silly, isn’t it? I don’t suppose you could reassure him-no, of course not. Even if you said we’ll both survive, he’d never believe you! But please, do go on with your questions.

LR: It’s the same question I asked him-what do you think of Will?

Davy: How many hours do we have? (He grins, and I suddenly see why Will is so conflicted-this man has a smile that shuts down rational thought and turns the pheromones up to Warp 6. If I weren’t happily married … and his boyfriend didn’t have a cutlass and pistol…)

LR: As long as you need, but the sooner we’re finished, the more time you’ll have to yourselves-I reserved this room for you for the whole weekend.

Davy: Ah! Well, then-excellent Captain, good manners, lovely in bed-will that be all? (laughs) He is the most attractive man I’ve ever known, and he does not realize how handsome he is, which I find endearing. He is truly honorable-and believe me, I’ve seen far too many despicable gentlemen to know how rare that honor is. Will wants to make the world right. He thinks himself a cynic, but underneath it all he has a very tender heart.

LR: And what about yourself?

Davy: Oh, I am a cynic; I expect the worst, so when life gives me a surprise, it’s generally a pleasant one. Will himself has been the grandest surprise of my life-he deserves to be knighted for his prowess in the bedchamber, as you have reported at great length.

He raises an eyebrow, as if inviting me to comment on the double entendre, but I just nod.

LR: Anything else?

Davy: I would like to grow old with him. Passion is glorious, but I think as time goes on, the physical expression diminishes and, if one is fortunate, the affection remains. It seems so with my parents, at least. I envy them their long life together, because I doubt I will ever be so lucky. Will is utterly fearless in battle. He seems able to step outside himself, takes risks he would never require of another. I fear that he may one day take one chance too many. As he said himself, that is the most likely ‘future’ for us both. I know that such anxiety is considered unworthy of a true man, but as my father has often observed, I have many such ‘unmanly’ faults.

LR: Will has said he’d like to see you leave the Navy.

Davy: I know. But, really, leave? And go… where? With whom? If I were to leave him, we might never meet again, or if we did, we might not even know one another. A ship is a world apart… I would not miss the Navy, but I do not want to live without Will.

LR: Do you think he could adjust to life ashore?

Davy: I wish I knew.

At this point, Commander Marshall tapped discreetly at the open door. I told him to come on in, thanked them both for their time, and asked if there was anything more either of them would like to say.

Will: Only this-whatever may befall us in the future, if I had the chance to take this path again, I should do so without hesitation. Come what may.

Davy: Indeed. But for my part, I would not object to a long, happy life together. So, madam writer-what are you going to do about it?

David Archer has a knack for getting the last word.

Casting Couch: John and Alfie from False Colors by Alex Beecroft, an Age of Sail m/m romance.

I like to pick an actor to embody each of my characters before I get very far on in writing them. It helps me to solidify what starts out as a very vague impression of how they look into a much more concrete picture.

With False Colors, naturally the writing was all done before it got a front cover, so while I’m extremely lucky, because the lads on the front cover of the book are very close to how I imagined, they aren’t the models I was originally using. If you’re interested, these are the actors I would have chosen to play the characters, if I’d had the choice. Having said that, I actually think John from the cover art is completely perfect. Alfie could do to look a little more roguish and charming.

So, in my imaginary blockbuster movie edition of ‘False Colors’, these are the actors I would cast for the parts:

Alfie – Damian O’Hare


John could not wrench his gaze away from Donwell’s face. Limned with gold, it was perfectly nondescript; round, pleasant, and completely lacking in self-conscious guilt. Donwell’s mouth quirked up at one side into a slow, charming smile.

John – Simon Woods


Cavendish gave another of those small smiles that stretched the skin over his cheekbones. He had lost a great deal of weight since the pirate incident, and had not been exactly heavy before that. If he was a skeleton, however, he was a very elegant one.

As usual, the hair colours are wrong, but that can always be fixed!


Alex Beecroft

False Colors is due out on April 13th 2009 from Running Press, a subsidiary of Perseus Books.

“Crossing Borders”

Available at Loose Id


Tristan Phillips

Z.A. Maxfield


When I entered the waiting room of St. Jude Hospital to find Tristan, he was sitting quietly with his eyes closed in the same area where I’d met Emma Truax, the injured officer’s mother. A case could be made that this corner of the waiting room had become a kind of command center for the friends of Officer Truax, littered as it was with pink donut boxes, fast food containers, newspapers, and empty paper coffee cups. Two men in uniform, arms folded, were catching a wink or two while they waited for word.

No one paid Tristan Phillips much attention, and as I gazed at him, seeing how deeply shadowed the circles were under his eyes and how boldly the freckles stood out on his pale skin I felt rather sorry for him. His long hair was tangled around his face, curling slightly where he’d slept on it. He looked terribly young.

“Tristan?” I spoke softly, but he jumped as though he’d been tased anyway.

“Hm? What?” He looked around anxiously, trying to gauge if anything important had happened. Seeing the quiet way the two officers in the room were dozing seemed to reassure him. “Oh.” He held out his hand. “From Michael’s cable interview, right?”

I shook his hand and introduced myself. “Sloane Mayfield. How is Michael?”

Tristan’s lips compressed into a line. “I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you very much.”

“I’m sorry. I understood you to be his friend?” I was checking my notes. I was sure Emma Truax told me Tristan Phillips was–

“I am his friend.” He seemed to crystallize, in that moment, and something hard appeared in his eyes. “I’m just not his family.”

“I see.” I said. “So you don’t know his condition.”

“He’s going to be perfectly fine,” he stated defiantly. “Whatever his condition.”

“That is good news,” I said, and he looked away.

“How did you meet Officer Truax?” I asked him.

“I… He gave me a ticket for skateboarding without a helmet back when I was in high school.” The kid had a smile that could power a rocket.

I laughed. “That’s unusual, to become friends with someone because they ticketed you.”

“I didn’t become friends with him because of that.” Tristan said. “I was pissed as hell when that happened. That was years ago. We became friends just recently.”

“And then,” I prompted.

“Officer Truax—Michael—is a really fine person.” Tristan smiled at something and I thought it was a fond memory, maybe. He worried the piercing in his tongue a little before he went on. “A lot of people look up to him.”

“Why is that, Tristan?”

“He’s smart and funny. It’s like he thinks it’s his job to protect the world. And just when you’re sure he’s going to meet you for dinner wearing tights and a cape…” at this Tristan looked down, and his Adam’s apple bobbed on the long column of his throat. “He’s wise enough to ask for what he needs.” Incredibly blue eyes met mine and I realized I couldn’t go with the story I’d just been given. Not on a cable television show in conservative Orange County.

“I see.”

“I imagine you do.” Tristan said dryly, looking down at his folded hands. “I get to see him every few hours for five minutes. Now that I have his mother’s permission. Before that I sat here for hours listening to them give more information out in press conferences than they would share with me.”

“That sucks,” I whispered.

Those eyes shot up again, and he grinned in an irrepressible way I found to be rather…beautiful. “Yeah, but you should have heard her when she got here. For the purposes of this discussion this man is also my son, Tristan’…” he mimicked.

Having met Emma Truax, I could only imagine.

“What’s going to happen?” I asked. “To the two of you?”

Tristan looked at his shoes, beat up Van’s, which had to have been skate park veterans since the arguably young Tristan’s Dogtown days. “I have no idea,” he said, leaning over to speak in confidence. His eyes glittered but he blinked rapidly, looking at the ceiling, until he got a grip. He was wound tighter than the ‘e’ string on a violin.

“But this? I can never go through this again, man. Never.

Interview with Officer Michael Truax

Crossing Borders

Z.A. Maxfield

Buy at: http://www.loose-id.com/detail.aspx?ID=755

I took Officer Michael Truax, Officer Helmet, the kids call him, by the arm and led him to a spot in the skate park I thought would be good for a photograph of the two of us.

“I’m sorry I’m late Officer,” I said.

“That’s fine, Miss…”

“Sloane,” I told him. “Call me Sloane. ‘Miss Mayfield’ is my older sister the kindergarten teacher.” I gave him that smile, the one I use on camera but he seemed unfazed by it.

Together we paused while Dave, my photographer, snapped a dozen photographs in quick succession. He gave me a thumbs up, and I returned my attention to Truax.

“Okay, I have a list of questions to ask you,” I said, shuffling through my cards, and we’ll tape your answers.” I indicated where Dave should set up the cameras. “Let’s just go over there and do this. Remember, it’s only for cable, just act natural.”

“Sure,” he said. He followed along, and I got the feeling that nothing much ruffled Officer Truax. He seemed pretty easy going. As we walked, about half the kids called him by name, either Officer Mike or Officer Helmet.

“So,” I said, as soon as Dave had the cameras rolling. “Today we’re here with Officer Michael Truax, also known by the locals as Officer Helmet, and we’re going to talk to him about… Stop rolling… what is that sound?”

“Sorry, Sloane,” Officer Truax fumbled for his cell phone. “I have a text message coming in.” I waited while he read it. He tried to keep from smiling, but the serious expression wouldn’t stay on his face. It was then that I noticed how really, really blue his eyes were.

“Something you’d care to share?” I asked him, as he thumbed his answer into his phone’s keyboard.

“Oh, hell no,” he said, concentrating hard. “Although if we could make this quick, I have a lunch—”

“Okay,” I said, “How about you turn off your cell, and we can get through it all that much quicker.” He frowned.

“I’m sorry, I need to keep it on.”

“All right, well.” I said. “What is it that first made you interested in making sure that all the these children wear their helmets?”

Officer Truax looked over my head at some of the kids. “It’s my job. I don’t like to see people get hurt. And it really is easy, what I would call a no-brainer, to just slap on a helmet. Much better than the other kind of no-brainer, where your head cracks open and your brains fall out. I hate that.”

“I see.” I smiled. This was going to be so boring, even though he was as hot a man as I’d seen in months. Go figure. “Tell me,” I tried a different tack. “And the ladies who are watching. Is there a Mrs. Truax?”

“No, well. Except for my mother, you know.” Was he blushing? I hoped the cameras caught the twin spots of color on his cheeks.

“Well, maybe we could help you out? What do you look for in a woman, Officer Truax?” Time for eye contact with the camera. “I’m sure our viewers would like to know?”

He stared at me, sort of stunned. “I’m sure they’d rather hear about current bicycle safety laws,” he murmured.

“And I’m equally certain we have time for both, the business and the personal side of Officer Michael Truax in this segment,” I assured him.

“No. Well I don’t have time. I’m sorry.” Moments later, he had another text message and laughed harder.

“Everything all right?”

“Fine,” he said, smiling. “As long as I can get away fairly soon.”

“Ah, so this is a hot date,” I remarked.

“Well, it’s kind of a new thing,” he blushed again, and I thought if the cameras weren’t picking up on this, they’d be the only ones. You could see his ruddy cheeks from space.

“Seriously,” He cleared his throat and returned to the subject at hand. “If you’re going to do skate sports, such as inline skating or skate boarding it’s best to purchase a helmet like this,” he held up a photograph of a ProTec skateboard helmet. “If professional skaters wear these then I think it’s safe to say they should be worn by amateurs as well.”

Officer Truax’s phone chimed again. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t just turn the damned thing off. “Officer,” I began, but he cut me off.

“Ordinarily I could give you as much time as you need.” He smiled at me politely. “But I’m late for a lunch engagement, and we didn’t, after all, get started when we agreed.”

“Yes, I know,” I said. That’s my fault. I’m sorry I was late. I—”

Just then, Officer Truax looked beyond me, to a place in the center of the skate park where a young man with long coppery red hair was doing tricks on a skateboard. He executed a number of kick flips and a three-sixty, following it up by grinding along a metal pipe set low into the ground.

The boy’s helmetless head was covered in the most stunning red hair, which flew in the sunlight, streaming behind him. He was older than most of the kids there, maybe college age, and dressed in low slung drawstring khaki pants and a tight tee shirt that didn’t quite meet them. He wore a pair of loud scruffy shoes. He was beautiful. Breathtaking. Every eye was on him. He was like a flame, spinning out of control.

“Hey!” The boy stopped suddenly. Officer Truax cursed under his breath, but smiled a predatory kind of smile. “Hey you, Officer Helmet! Think you can catch me today?” The boy kicked his skateboard up into his hand and took off running.

Shit.” Officer Truax hissed. He looked determined, but there was something else–something indefinably happy–in his blue eyes as he took off running after that kid. I lost sight of the pair of them as first the redhead, and then Officer Truax rounded the corner out of sight behind the restrooms and out into the neighborhood beyond.

“That a wrap Miss Mayfield?” asked Dave.

“Unless you’re planning on running after them,” I said, disgusted.

When I gave my mike to the assistant, Rose. I was already trying to decide how best to cut the interview, such as it was, to fill my segment. Damn community cable.

Dave yelled, loud enough for everyone in the skate park to hear it, “That’s a wrap!”

An interview with Zack Benjamin from “Zack and the Dark Shaft: Zara’s Bois 1”

This is the quietest I’ve seen Zara’s since it’s much ballyhooed and celebrated opening a couple of years back, but then it’s midday and the popular chic gay nightclub is empty but for a few delivery men and employees trying to get an early start on the weekend.

In several hours, not much longer, this place will be pumping with a mix of club, hip-hop, reggae and pop music to which its hip and trendy patrons will dance the night away and exotic drinks will be flowing from the bar on which the patrons will get tipsy and soused.

I drum my fingers on the lacquered top of the table where I’m sitting, nervously waiting for my subject to arrive as I admire the 3-D underwater murals on all the walls decorated in fluorescent paint that makes the sharks, dolphins, whales and rays glow under UV light.

I spy Zack rushing from the back area now where the owner’s office is and am not surprised that a second later, Zack is captured around the waist by said owner, and Zack’s husband, Quincy Powers.

Zack turns in the bigger man’s arms, seeming to melt against Quincy as he accepts the passionate kiss that his partner bestows upon him.

I had originally thought to interview the pair together, but didn’t think I would get very many questions answered in between all the drool-worthy, lovey-dovey kissing of the newlyweds. They really do make a great couple and I envy their closeness, but know it came at a cost.

I catch myself gaping and can see why Zara had risked so much to be with Quincy, even her brother Zack’s life. I can feel the heat of that kiss all the way from where I’m sitting and lower my eyes, feeling like a voyeur before they finally end it and Zack makes his way over to the table, still breathless.

“I’m sorry for the delay. Duty called.”

“No problem.” I smile at his explanation and watch as he forks a hand through his longish, caramel-brown hair, giving me a better view of his navy-blue eyes. They’re simultaneously penetrating and innocent, and for a moment I wonder who will be interviewing who.

“So how’s business?” I ask unnecessarily, biding my time before I get to what I really want to know.

“Business is great. The club is a real hit. Just like Zara predicted.”

“Is she happy with what you and Quincy have done with the place?”

“If she wasn’t happy, she wouldn’t have agreed to come work here with us.”

I nod, still biding my time before I ask, “So, how is married life treating you?”

“Is this on the record or off?” He chuckles so that I know he’s joking, and sits back in his chair, giving me the full wattage of his scampish grin.

I wonder how he and his partner get any work done being and working in each other’s company all day. I could see why Zara fell into the trap of thinking she could convert a gay man. Quincy and Zack are two hot and sexy guys, not to mention nice, and if they didn’t own up to it or I hadn’t seen them necking, I would never know they are gay.

“Married life is pretty sweet. The sex hasn’t tapered off yet like everyone said it would. It’s actually gotten hotter,” Zack answers.

“And that’s important to you? The sex?”

“Wouldn’t it be to you?” He glances over his shoulder where Quincy is conferring with one of his bartenders, then turns back around to face me with the most beatific expression on his face that I have ever seen on anyone. The look says it all—sex is not the end all and be all for him. Love is.

The look sidetracks me and I glance down at my notes to ground myself before a bartender brings over our drinks that Zack must have pre-ordered—both plain ginger ales. He remembered. I take a sip of my soda then ask, “How is your sister doing?”

“He…she’s doing okay.”

“Still getting used to her being in a man’s body, huh?” I almost laugh at the idea that I’m discussing reincarnation, and not just a sex change, so nonchalantly, but then I am having drinks in a club that until a few months ago was haunted by the ghost of Zack’s sister, Zara. Now the ghost was happy and settled in her new life as a man—Trevor—and living with his new love, Zara’s head bouncer, Ramsey Logan. Boy, I could see why Zack was tongue-tied. This was confusing.

“It’s a lot to get used to,” he said. “For the first twenty-four years of our lives she was my twin sister, a girl. Now she’s…” He shook his head. “It’s an adjustment.”

“And Trevor’s twin brother Travis? How is he adjusting?”

“I guess about the same as I am. We’re kind of sharing custody of Zara since she’s in Travis’s brother’s body. But at least she’s happy.”

“And in love?”

“Ramsey makes her as happy as I’ve ever seen her.”

“How are your parents taking it?”

“They don’t know Zara’s still…around. Can you imagine their reaction?”

I could only imagine how they would take the idea of their wild and irresponsible daughter now inhabiting the body of the formerly wild and irresponsible club boi, Trevor.

But on the other hand, if they could accept the marriage of their gay, white son to a gay black man, they might be able to accept Zara’s new incarnation.

“I think it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie,” Zack murmured. “At least for now.”

I looked into his solemn eyes and nod.

Maybe one day in the not so distant future he and I can go and break the happy news to his and Zara’s parents, but for now I have to agree to let sleeping dogs lie. For now.


Zack and the Dark Shaft: Zara’s Bois 1 is available here:


Interview with Adrien English

He is very drunk.

Preoccupied, tired, maybe a little lonely, he has let me refill his glass — ply him with liquor — in a way he ordinarily would not. It’s not good for him, for one thing — not with that tricky heart of his. And he knows he has a tendency to…rock himself in the waters. So he’s generally careful.

He’s generally careful about most things, and yet…yet he keeps getting involved in murder. And with the wrong men.

You can tell a lot about a guy when he drinks. Adrien English is not a sloppy drunk. In fact, he gets more careful. Very serious — owlish, even. But his dark hair falls untidily into his blue eyes, and he has this little trick of watching me from under his lashes. He’s not flirting, exactly…

He’s better looking than I expected. Better looking than he thinks — a lot better looking than he thinks. And yet it’s hard to put my finger on what it is. The eyes are lovely, of course. Nice nose. Stubborn chin. Mouth is a little too sensitive. Maybe it’s just the trick of good bone structure. He needs a haircut but his hands are clean, well-cared for.

No ring.

I start with that.

“How are things going with Guy? You’re still seeing him, right?”

He cocks a brow. I think he imagines it makes him look sardonic, but somehow it emphasizes the fact that his collar is undone one button too far, and his hair keeps falling in his eyes.

“Have you been talking to my mother?” he asks — he’s amused. Mostly.

“No. I just know at the end of The Hell You Say things were moving in that direction.”

“Ah.” He sips his fifth Italian margarita. “Things are good. Guy is…good.”

It’s my turn to raise an eyebrow. “What about all that occult stuff he’s into?”

He levels a long blue look at me and offers a kind of smirk. “Five fold kiss,” he says succinctly.

I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“So you’re happy?”

“Of course.” There must be something in his drink, the way he’s staring into those amber depths. “Everything is great. Everything is…going very well. We’re expanding the bookstore. And I just sold the film rights to my first book to Paul Kane’s production company.” He rubs his forehead — yes, he’s going to have one hell of a headache tomorrow morning. “Everything’s coming together. Natalie is working at Cloak and Dagger –”

I interrupt what is beginning to sound like rambling. “Do you ever hear from Angus?”

“Not so far…”

“How are you adjusting to Lisa’s remarriage? Do you like being part of a big family?”

“Oh my God!” he says, and that’s the first absolutely unguarded response he’s given. “Oh. My. God.” He raises his head and stares at me like…words fail him.

“It’s not going well?” Now that I didn’t expect. “But they all like you. They care –”

“Believe me,” he says. “I know.”

I have to bite my lip to keep a straight face. “Well, I think they’re good for you.”

He just gives me a long, dark long.

“I think you need more people in your life,” I insist. “Maybe even a cat.”

“A cat?”

“Every bookstore needs a cat.”

He rolls his eyes, and now he’s ignoring me. I study his profile. Yes, that is one stubborn chin.

You can tell guys who’ve grown up with money. Even though he’s just wearing Levis and a simple white tailored shirt, he has this…air. It’s more than grooming. It’s more than the well-worn Bruno Magli loafers or the Omega watch. I don’t think he realizes how much he’s been pampered, protected — not really.

“What is it about you that seems to attract murder and violence?” I ask.

“Me?” Now I have his full astonished attention. “If you’ll notice –” he’s enunciating very carefully “I haven’t been involved in a murder since — in nearly two years. Coincidence? I think not.”

“You don’t think you’re bad luck or suffering from Jessica Fletcher Syndrome or something like that?”

He’s giving me a hard, un-Adrien stare. “Why don’t you ask me what you really came here to ask me?” he says quietly.

It’s my turn to look away. When I glance back, he’s still watching me — I’m apparently having more trouble with this than he is.

“All right. Did you read my interview with Jake Riordan?”

His mouth twists. “Yeah. So?”

“What do you think?”

“What is there to think?”

“Do you think Jake’s happy with the choices he’s made?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“Are you happy with the choices he’s made?”

He opens his mouth, then closes it. Gives me a wry smile. All at once he seems a lot more sober. “He had to make the choices that were right for him, and I’m all right with that.”

“Do you think if Jake came out, you could forgive him?”

“There’s nothing to forgive.”

“Do you think if Jake came out, you could have a future together?”

He says flatly, “That will never happen. Jake will never come out.”

“But if he did –”

Impatiently, he says, “I don’t want to talk theoretical bullshit. He won’t. He can’t. It’s moot. There’s no point talking about it. There’s no point thinking about it.”

“All right, already.”

He grimaces, tosses off the rest of his margarita.

“Do you still love Jake?” I ask softly.

“No.” He doesn’t hesitate, he meets my eyes. He shakes his head.

“But you did? Once?”

His smile is a little bitter as he rises not quite steadily from the table. “Probably,” he says. “It was a long time ago.”


Find out more about the series of Adrien English Mysteries here.

An Interview with Adam Highland from ‘Phoenix Rising’ by Kimberley Gardner

I arrive early at the coffee shop where I’m meeting Adam Highland, one of
the heroes from my debut novel, Phoenix Rising. He’s not there yet so I get
myself a latte and sit at one of the little, round tables by the front
window. I set my digital recorder and my notebook on the table and settle in
to wait.

A few minutes later I see him. He crosses the street and walks up the block
toward the coffee shop, moving with that unconscious grace that is so
particular to dancers and athletes. Though there’s nothing in his demeanor
to tell me that Adam is aware of his affect on people, I know that he is.
Very much so.

He enters the shop, sees me and gives me a wave as he makes his way up to
the counter. All eyes, male and female, follow him. And why not? Nearly six
feet tall and with the build of a classically trained ballet dancer, Adam is
a pleasure to look at. his dark hair is tied back in a thick tail that falls
to his waist. The style shows off the array of silver hoops that line his
ear from lobe to cartilage and accentuates his high cheekbones and
model-perfect features.

As he orders he leans on the counter, faded denim pulling tight across his
ass, and I imagine I hear several appreciative sighs from surrounding
tables. It makes me smile. I like that people enjoy looking at him.
Adam accepts his drink and says something to the barista that makes the boy
laugh and blush. I wonder what it was.

I get up from my chair as he approaches. He sets down his coffee. We hug and
he kisses my cheek.

“Thanks for doing this interview,” I say.

“Hey, anything for the cause.”


“Well, almost anything.”

We both laugh and take our seats. I flip open my notebook and reach for my

He eyes the recorder warily as he tears open the first of several sugar
packets. “You’re going to record me?”

I nod. “I don’t want to miss anything. That’s okay, isn’t it?”

He shrugs. “I guess so. I just hate how I sound on tape, you know?”

“It’s okay. People will be reading the interview. The recording is just for

“And you already know how I sound.”

“That’s right.”

I watch as he dumps four sugars into his coffee and stirs. When he raises
the cup to his lips I discretely turn on the recorder and pick up my pen.
Adam is a fetish model and doing very well at it too, so that’s where I
start the interview.

“So how’s the modeling going?”

He shrugs. “It’s fine, easier than stripping, and the money’s good.”

I suppress a sigh. It’s not what he really feels, I’m almost sure. I try a
different approach.

“How does Jimmy feel about your new career?”

He smiles at the mention of his lover’s name, the look in his eyes going
soft and dreamy and I know I’ve chosen well.

“he’s my biggest fan.” Adam sips his coffee. “He owns dozens of my pics. Has
them hanging all over the house. It’s sort of embarrassing.”

But the way his smile deepens I know that he loves it too.

“And he’s okay with his partner having such a …” I search for the right

He helps me out. “Bold profession?”

I laugh. “Bold?”

“Jimmy’s word. I think it fits though, don’t you?”

I nod. “But he’s okay with that.”

“Sure. He knows I’m not shy. I was a stripper when we met. ”

I reach for my own coffee and take a sip. “When he was still in the closet.”

“Yeah. Except he’d never call it that. He’d say he was just being discrete.”
He adds yet another sugar to his cup and gives it a stir.

“And he’s not anymore? Discrete, I mean.”

“He isn’t marching in any pride parades or anything, but he’s open about
being gay now. I couldn’t be with him if he was still hiding.” He sips his
coffee. Sets it down. “You should know that. After all, it’s your book.”

“But it’s your story,” I counter.

He smiles. “yeah, it is, mine and Jimmy’s.”

I decide to take the interview in another direction. “Will the two of you ever get married?”

“Jimmy already asked me.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said, maybe we should wait and see if it becomes legal in this state.”

“And what if it does, then what?” When he hesitates I press a little.
“Suppose for a minute that gay marriage became legal here in Pennsylvania
tomorrow. Then what?”

Long fingers toy with one of the empty sugar packets. “I love Jimmy and he
loves me. We don’t need some piece of paper to make that real.”

“So this is the real deal. You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Have you ever been in love before?” I doodle a heart in my notebook and put
their initials inside.

“I thought I was, but it wasn’t the real thing. Not like this.”

“And how do you know?”

“I feel it.” He lays his palm against the center of his chest, over his
heart. “In here. I feel it.”

“When did you first know?”

“The night I met him.” There’s no hesitation. None.

“So it was love at first site? You believe in that?” I add a lightning bolt
to my drawing, striking the heart.

He nods. “The French call it coup de foudre, a clap of thunder.” He claps
his hands and several people glance our way but he doesn’t seem to notice.
“A lot of people think that’s bullshit. But it happened to me so …”

“So you’re a believer.”


“I didn’t know you spoke French.” The heart now wears a beret.

He laughs. “I don’t. I took it in high school, but coup de foudre is about
the only thing that stuck besides all that ballet terminology.”

“What about kids? Do you ever see yourselves as parents?”

“I don’t know.” He picks up the stirrer, sliding it through his fingers. His
teeth worry his lower lip. “That’s a big responsibility, you know? I
wouldn’t want to screw it up. Jimmy would be a good father, but me …”

“Who’s the dominant one in the relationship?”

“You mean who tops?” He grins and his dark eyes sparkle with mischief. “You
ought to know since you wrote the love scenes.”

“Um, that’s not really what I meant.” Now it’s me who blushes and I wonder
again what he said to barista-boy.

But Adam never misses a beat. “I know what you meant. We’re pretty much
equal partners in everything.” He lays the stirrer on the table beside the
pile of empty sugar packets. “Jimmy is strong in some ways and I’m strong in
others, so we balance each other. That’s the way it should be, I think. We
don’t live the d/s lifestyle or anything so dominance isn’t really an

“I’ve seen pictures of you where you look like the perfect submissive.”

“That’s just pretend. It’s my job to make it look real, but it’s just an

“Some of your friends are into the scene.”

“Yeah, Jason and Shannon are both dominant and they really live the life,
though Jason isn’t with anybody right now.”

“What about that? There’s a scene in the novel where you needle Benny pretty
hard about his crush on Jason. Anything happening there?”

He finishes his coffee and sets down the empty cup. “You’re the one writing
the sequel. You tell me.”

“Geez, what a slave-driver,” I tease. “I’m working on it.”

“no, the slave-master is in the other story. You should get yourself an
assistant to help keep this stuff straight.”

“You volunteering?”

“I’ve already got a job, remember?” He laughs. “So, how many scenes am I

“It’s not your story.”

“I know. But Jason and Benny need my help. Otherwise they might never get

“I’ll see what I can do.”

He glances at his watch. It’s a nice one, but I don’t remember him ever
wearing a watch before and I wonder where it came from.

“Do you need to get going?” I finish my own coffee.

He gives me an apologetic look. “I’m meeting Jimmy for lunch.” He looks at
his watch again. “And I really don’t want to be late.”

“Nice watch.” I turn off the recorder and start gathering up my stuff. “You
never used to wear a watch. Did you?”

Adam stands. He picks up our empty cups and our other trash from the table.
“No, but Jimmy gave it to me.”

He says this like it’s all the explanation that’s needed, and, given what I
know about him, I suppose it is.


Phoenix Rising is available from All Romance Ebooks


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