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“Crossing Borders”

Available at Loose Id

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

Tristan Phillips

Z.A. Maxfield

zam_crossingborders_coverlg1

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.

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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!”

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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:

http://www.sirenpublishing.com/graciecmckeever/zatds.asp

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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.

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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.”

“Anything?”

“Well, almost anything.”

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

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
me.”

“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
word.

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.”

“Yeah.”

“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
issue.”

“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
illusion.”

“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
in?”

“It’s not your story.”

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

“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

http://allromanceebooks.com/product-phoenixrising-10198-144.html

Or in print from B&N

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=kimberly+gardner

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Mani from ‘Space, Man’ by Sharon Maria Bidwell

When I wrote ‘Space, Man’ I wanted to hit a mildly comic note. It’s a ‘fling’ and therefore it’s intended to be a light, quick read. Some people have said they only wish it were longer and I admit I could have gone for more character development if I’d increased the story length but I was subject to the guidelines for the category as demanded by the publisher. Still, these two characters hold an unexpected place in my heart.

I came up with the idea while in Padstow, which is a small seaside port on the left side of the United Kingdom. I know the above images are a tad ‘poser-like’ and maybe you need to be British or have visited Padstow to appreciate them, but the idea of someone stumbling over this man in white on the quayside amused me so much I wanted to ‘see’ the vision I had in my mind. I simply had to write this story. I also think Yaoi influenced me a little. I’d love to write a Yaoi novel one day but I definitely see Mani as one of those characters. I also saw the world from his perspective. He arrives; he falls in love. He sees nothing wrong with whom he chooses to love despite it being someone of the same sex and… Well, read the interview and find out for yourself.

***

I’ve asked Mani to wear his spacesuit for this interview. I felt a little awkward asking but he’s so amiable that he didn’t seem to mind. I even felt a little foolish and then the door opens and he walks into the room. Alex’s thoughts when he first saw Mani spring instantly to mind:

“Another beach bum. Just great. With that shaggy hair bleached white and falling in a thick, tumbling wave over his face, the man could only be a drifter. The white hair was one thing to arrest the attention, but the white, tight outfit, was quite another. It… clung. No wonder the stranger attracted so many odd glances.”

On with the interview, if I can clear my throat enough to speak. Cling is the perfect word. I swallow, try to drag my eyes away, but I can’t. He’s like a magnet and goodness knows what the folk of the quiet little seaside resort of Padstow would think of a gay alien in their midst. Saying that, Mani and Alex live in London. Alex’s parents live in Padstow but he and Mani visit them often and it’s where Alex first set eyes on this man in white.

Mani turns to take his seat and presents me with the perfect round globe of his backside. At once, I struggle to stifle a laugh and fight to pull my face into some semblance of order before Mani sees my expression. No wonder Alex was so taken with this man at first sight. I recall Alex’s promises not to take home another beach bum when he first saw Mani. Yeah…ri-ghhhttt. Alex, you didn’t stand a chance.

While Mani is definitely sex on two long and lean legs, there’s also something very innocent and demure in his attitude. I sort of understand why, but is the universe really such an innocent place?

“Hello, Mani.”

He nods and smiles. The smile immediately lights up his face. His beautiful, violet, almond-shaped eyes distract me. His thin nose leads down to full kissable lips. I only just realise I’m starting to purse my own lips in time to stop before I make little kissing gestures.

“Thank you for granting me an interview. I’d like to start by addressing the issue of your name.”

“Addressing?” Mani frowns at me, the centre of his brow crinkling up adorably. “Ah, address is where you live.” He seems to think about this. “I do not see how you can put an address on a name.”

For a second, I’m speechless, and then I remember that Mani is still learning the subtle nuances of our language. Indeed, he’s learning the nuances of an entire planet. “It also means dealing with an issue, concentrating on a topic.” Not wanting to give him too long to think about this as I can see Mani leading us off on a whole tangent of questions, I swiftly forge ahead. “Alex gave you your name. What’s your real name in your language?”

He utters something that makes me think of a dyslexic typist crossed with the sound of nails on a chalkboard. There’s no way I’m going to be able to come up with a way to spell it. So much for that.

“I wondered what you thought of the name Alex gave you. I mean, Mani is quite unusual.” Alex took the name from a Norse legend. It means Moon but I want to know if Mani truly likes the name. “Do you like the name or would you rather choose another?”

Another smile teases Mani’s lips. “I like it,” he replies. “I like the sound of it, the story behind it, and that Alex gave it to me. He named me almost as if he was my destiny, the one to take my hand and lead me into this new life.” His gaze is a little unfocused and wandering. His hand presses against his defined pecs and then the hand starts to slide. I’m lost for a moment watching that hand descend over the ridge of abdominal muscles that the suit hugs so…intimately. They sure do make them well formed out there in the universe. That’s a vote for space exploration if ever there was one. I’m wondering how far down he’ll sweep his hand when it stops moving. I’m trying not to glance any further downwards. That suit sure does cling. His voice brings me out of my trance. “I always remember when he gave it to me,” Mani continues and I have to give myself a mental kick to recall that we’re talking about Alex giving Mani his name. “He was so flustered. Of course, then, I did not understand why. I have learned much since then.”

A faint flush touches his cheeks, so delicate that it’s almost the type of rosy blush you’d expect to find on a Victorian maiden. Is Mani shy? About sex? He certainly never appeared to be.

“Mani, you told Alex that you have three forms and that the one you maintain on your home planet is a block of wood?” I sound as uncertain as I feel.

Mani laughs. “No. I said he would no more look at me in that state than he would a block of wood. The form we use on my world is no more interesting than wood.”

If Mani understood the concept of slang and that there are many forms of “wood” I can’t help thinking he’d have second thoughts as to whether Alex would be interested or not.

“I see. You also said that on your world you don’t mate in the conventional sense.” As that small frown that makes me want to kiss Mani’s forehead appears once more, I think that maybe I’ve made my question too complicated.

“We do not mate the way your species mate,” Mani says, showing me that he’s learned a lot in the last year on Earth. “Females do not need more than our seed.”

“Yes, that’s what you said. What I don’t understand is why you were not eager to seek female companionship then? What made you choose a man?” This question just popped into my head, but it’s a good one and deserves an answer. I also want him to explain why he chose Alex in particular but we’ll get around to that.

“I did not choose in the way I think you mean it. We met by accident but my race believes in destiny. We…flow along with the design of the universe. What will be, will be. Alex was meant for me.”

“How do you know that? Why Alex? If you wanted a man then why pick Alex as that man? Was he simply convenient?”

I give Mani the few moments he often needs to work his way through our language. When he finally understands I see him blink. A look of something like consternation sweeps over his face.

“Alex was not convenient,” he says and the tone of his voice tells me that he most resolutely refutes this and even dislikes the question. “I was not looking for anyone, male or female. I did not even know that you could mate with your own sex but I am glad, for my heart opened to Alex long before…” He stops. The flush rushes up his face and he’s actually blushing now. “Before other parts of me did,” he finishes.

Despite the startling scarlet blush that stands out so starkly in all that pale skin, there’s something altogether too smug and delighted in the set of his mouth and the way his eyes sparkle. He might be embarrassed enough to blush but he loves Alex and clearly adores making love with him. I’m a little sorry that he’s embarrassed at all. When Mani first arrived here, he was so innocent that he saw the world as it should be, rather than how it is. He saw nothing wrong with loving someone even if that person was the same sex. Now the idea embarrasses him a little and I can’t help wondering how many more of our prejudices he’ll be subjected to in the years ahead. I hope Alex can keep him safe, protect him. Still, I also see that he’s unrepentant and proud of the person he loves, and I’m very pleased about that.

“Give me three reasons why you fell in love with Alex.”

I expect Mani to answer me at once but he pauses. When he finally starts to speak, I realise that it’s because he wanted to get his words just right.

“He’s loving,” is the first thing Mani says. “I didn’t realise how loving he was at first, but he was looking for love, longing for someone he could believe in, and I felt it. I felt his need but I felt more than that. He was so open with his heart even when he tried to close it off. I knew I was worthy of that love.” If a human being said this, no doubt we’d think them conceited, but Mani isn’t human. He doesn’t know what conceited means. “I knew I wouldn’t betray him. That made me worthy. He needs protecting, and I can do that.”

It’s my turn to blink. All this time I’ve thought of Mani as the innocent one that needed protection, and now I realise that he’s right. Alex needs someone to look out for him just as much as Mani does.

“He’s kind.”

I smile at this. Yeah, Alex is too kind sometimes.

“He took me in, a stranger. He’s so kind that sometimes he lets others hurt him.”

Wow. Mani is just getting more perceptive by the minute.

“His type of kindness is a vulnerability, but it’s rare and precious so that is the second reason I love him.”

“And the third?”

Mani shakes his head. “I have more than three reasons. Alex is smart…for a human being.” I want to protest in defence of our race, but considering what Mani can do with technology, I grant him this. “He’s funny, usually when he doesn’t mean to be, which is adorable.” Mani smiles sweetly. “He’s sexy and a good lover. I can sum Alex up by calling him a good man, and that’s why I love him, but there is one more thing.” Mani grins at me and I see something in his expression that I never expected. That look is mischievous. He leans forward as though he’s going to confide in me.

“Would it be wrong of me to say that he makes me horny?”

We stare at each other a moment and then fall about laughing.

http://www.loose-id.net/searchresult.aspx?CategoryID=237

Sharon Maria Bidwell
aonia – where the muses live
http://www.sharonbidwell.co.uk
http://www.myspace.com/aonia

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“So, Josh,” I say, stumbling at the combination of unaccustomed petticoats and the long oily swell of the sea—best not to think about that—”you’ve done very well for yourself.”

It’s very windy on the quarterdeck, and the pages of my notebook riffle manically through my fingers, making me almost miss Josh’s sharp, black, pondering look. He’s wondering why I said that, whether I intended to insult him, what he can say without giving anything away. I know him well enough to guess that this interview will be like pulling teeth, and sigh.

“Peter was glad enough to talk to me.”

His mouth twitches at the side, and the brown eyes warm for a moment before he looks away to hide the smile. “Peter is always glad to talk about himself. It is one of his favourite topics of conversation.”

“How shocked he’d be to hear you say so! He thinks you worship him.”

“Well so I do.”

Silence falls, leaving what seemed a promising start thrown overboard and drowning. The deck tilts and a great fountain of spray bursts over the bow, making me lurch for the rail. But Josh is still standing, perfectly balanced, eyes sparkling, completely at home. “I’m sorry,” he says, seeing my expression. “Sure I’m being no gentleman. Let’s start again and I’ll try and pry some answers out for you like winkles from the shell.”

He raises his russet eyebrows and gives me a peculiarly Irish smile; roguish, full of charm. Predictably I forget my annoyance at once.

“Alright then, lets start with something easy. Favourite colour?”

“Green.”

“Is that through patriotism or…”

“It’s the colour of Peter’s eyes: You’ve seen icebergs? When the bright arctic light slants through white mountains of towering water. You look in there and you can see an emerald whose beauty is not equalled anywhere on earth. Deeper in there are fleeting colours you catch like an enchantment; aquamarine, and leaf green, and the shy, shady, private green of wildernesses where Man has never trod. That colour.”

I take a step back, blinking. “‘Worship’,” I say, a little spooked because this is more like idolatry, “I was right about that. He’s not worthy of it, you know.”

Josh shrugs, still smiling. “Who is?”

“He almost had you hanged!”

“‘Almost’ makes quite a difference. But, don’t you see, if he’d chosen to denounce me I could not have held it against him. I would have known he was doing what he thought was the right thing. He does that. It’s part of what makes him so…” He’s searching for a word, embarrassed by the one that comes to mind. “So pure.”

I realize, belatedly, that we’ve begun talking about Peter again. It’s pleasant enough, but really not the point. “What part of Ireland do you come from, Josh?”

“From Rathmoines, near Dublin. We’re a minor offshoot of the FitzGeralds. Settled in Ireland by the Normans in an attempt to civilize the natives.”

“Did it work?”

Josh laughs. “Depends on how you look at it. We ended up somewhere in between – too English for the Irish, too Irish for the English. Story of my life. If it wasn’t for Peter intervening in my career….”

“Oh no!” I hold out a hand to arrest the turn in the conversation before it starts. “We’re not going there.” I can’t decide if it’s sweet or just infuriating, the way he turns every question into a chance to talk about the man he loves. No wonder the two of them get on so well, completely in agreement as they are about which one of them is the centre of the universe.

“It’s you I want to know about, not him. Now, let’s try again. What made you want to join the Navy?”

His dark, dark brown eyes look almost black in the shadow of his hat. There’s salt on my lips from the sea, but – catching his mood – I fancy it tastes like tears. “I wanted to make it easier on my family,” he says, quietly. “A man like me – with my vice – it’s only a matter of time before I bring them dishonour. I thought if I was gone, long gone to some foreign shore, when my depravity was uncovered I’d only be a distant embarrassment and not a present shame. Or, if God was kind to me, I could die somewhere far away, as a naval hero, and no one would be the wiser.”

Silence falls again. I tuck my notebook into the pocket I have strapped between my hoop and my gown. He’s reminded me why he is so reticent, why he has this habit of secrecy that only love has been able to penetrate.

“Did you always know you were gay?”

“Always know I was a sodomite?” The tilt of his head is mocking. His lips draw up to show his canine teeth, in what I think is amusement at my pity. “An invert? A molly? One of the third sex? Yes, I did. I knew I was different – wrong – from the age of about four. We used to go into Dublin, me and the boys on the back of a grain cart, and throw stones at the prisoners in the pillory for a day out. We’d club together and buy the broadsheets to read about the crimes, and all my friends would laugh most over the sods. So I learned early what I had to expect in life.”

“It’s funny,” I’m leaning forward now, trying to read him better, wishing I hadn’t made him so damn tall. “This is one of the things I don’t understand about you. Didn’t you try and fight it? You’ve been through more casual, meaningless sex than I’ve had hot dinners. There probably isn’t a wharf tavern or backroom where you haven’t picked up a temporary shag. How can that co-exist with the burning poetic glory of your love for Peter? Don’t you have any self control at all?”

His face hardens from boyish smoothness into a man’s cynicism. I’m a woman, so he won’t threaten me – that’s not his style – but all the same I have a new appreciation for how scary he can be.

“Why should I? I was born to go to Hell. I was damned in my mother’s womb. What good would self restraint do me? Why not forget, by whatever means I could, the future that lay in store for me? Who was going to redeem me? I knew it couldn’t be done.”

“But you were redeemed.”

The flash of anger dies away leaving a hollow behind his eyes. He looks as if he’s been punched. “Yes. By death and fire, by Peter, and by Giniw.” Pushing back hat and wig to pull at his hair – auburn as autumn leaves in this Bermudan sunshine – Josh gives a bark of rueful laughter. “I don’t think I want to talk any more. One of my men will escort you ashore.”

“Can I just ask you what comes next? You were both left without a ship at the end of ‘Captain’s Surrender’ yet here you are, on deck again.”

He looks too worried for a man whose miraculous return from a David and Goliath victory must have made him the toast of the Royal Navy. “I’ve been given another command. There’s talk about making me Post. That is, confirming me in the rank of Captain permanently.”

“Oh! Well, congratulations!”

“Except… except that Peter surrendered. The chances are he won’t be reinstated – he’ll go back to being a lieutenant.”

“It’s not a tragedy, surely?” I say, watching Josh’s downcast look with concern. “He was a lieutenant when you met.”

Josh grimaces, raising his hands to draw a nebulous shape of frustration and fear in the air. “Can you see Peter Kenyon being content to take orders from me?”

I’d always thought of the two of them as equals, but really, could I see ambitious Peter, arrogant Peter, playing second fiddle to his own bedmate? “He loves you.”

“I suppose I will have to rest my hopes on that being enough.”

~*~*~*~

‘Captain’s Surrender’ is available here

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