Friday, March 17, 2023

My Magical Realism Novel, SEASPRAY, Is Now Out in Audiobook!

 



Very, very proud of how this turned out!

My magical realism novel about escaping domestic abuse, SEASPRAY, is now available in audiobook, narrated by the amazing David Allen Vargo

Get your copy: https://www.amazon.com/Audible-Seaspray/dp/B0BYG148F8
Also available in ebook and paperback:
Digital
Paperback

ABOUT THE BOOK


Named Best Book of 2022 by OnTopDownUnder Reviews!


Winslow Birkel is a sweet young man in his first relationship. But his boyfriend, the charming and fiery Chad Loveless, has become increasingly abusive to the point where Winslow fears for his life.

Everything changes in a single night when Winslow, fleeing yet another epic fight, goes out to a local bar and finds a sympathetic ear in a new friend, Darryn Maxwell. But when he comes home, Chad’s waiting. He’s got it in for Winslow, whom he wrongly accuses of being unfaithful.

The stormy night sends Winslow off on a journey to escape. The last thing he recalls is skidding off the road and into the river. When he awakens, he’s mysteriously in the charming seaside town of Seaspray, where people are warm and welcoming, yet their appearances and disappearances are all too inexplicable.

Back home, Darryn wonders what’s happened to the new guy he met during his first outing to the local gay bar, the Q. Darryn knows Winslow’s been abused, but he also feels he’s quickly fallen in love with Winslow.

Can Winslow and Darryn decipher their respective mysteries? Is it possible for them to reunite? Is Chad still lurking and plotting to make sure Winslow never loves anyone else? The answers to these questions await you in Seaspray, where you may, or may not, ever leave.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Not Your Typical Vampire: Meet Milton Bradley in MORBIDLY OBESE

 


I have a new story out and it's one that will surprise you--a vampire tale that's laugh-out-loud funny.

ABOUT THE STORY

Milton Bradley was not your typical vampire. Finding someone to love and with whom to share eternity would be difficult enough for a man who weighed over 400 hundred pounds, let alone one of the undead who only came out at night. Milton is caught in an endless cycle of blood sucking, guilt over his weight, and eating more to make the pain of being different go away.

Can the answer to his prayers be found in a 12-Step group for overweight vampires called Morbidly Obese?

HAVE A TASTE

Milton sat near his coffin, a custom job crafted from oak, wearing a blood moustache and feeling miserable.  It was a vicious circle, he thought, I am an addict.  The hunger gets out of control, I binge, then feel horrible, then binge again to ease the guilt and remorse.

It was the blue gray hour just before the sun rose and Milton recalled Sheila and Marie, the surprised looks on their faces when he approached them and tried to convince them that he too, had stumbled into the wrong meeting, suggesting they still their beating hearts by having a few slices of pie at the Baker’s Square which was just around the corner.  The women had been leery, but the promise of French Silk pie made them abandon their good sense when Milton suggested a shortcut through a dark alley from which they never emerged.

Milton climbed into his coffin and pulled the lid shut.  He promised himself that he would begin his diet tomorrow.  Tomorrow, he told himself, was another night.

But when the sun set the next night, Milton found himself rising with hunger pangs.  It was hard squeezing out of the coffin and Milton told himself mildew must be getting into the crypt somehow because the wood was surely beginning to contract.

He tried to deny the hunger pangs, telling himself that it was too difficult for him to have just one.  He could never stop at just one...no, he had to have a battalion, a troupe, a club, a group, a squad, a regiment, an assembly, a crew...drinking, drinking, drinking until he felt bloated, until the sharp copper tang of freshly-let blood filled the air...it was only then that Milton felt sated.

And just look where it’s gotten me, he thought with despair, I can’t even see my feet!  Thank God I don’t ever have to look in a mirror.

Milton struggled into his XXXL black canvas pants and black sweat shirt. Even these were beginning to feel snug and soon he would have to find a tailor, because he had gone as big as he could go with off the rack clothes.

And in spite of all these sensible thoughts, Milton still craved blood...large quantities of blood.  Why weren’t there vampire diet pills?  Why couldn’t there be an undead equivalent of Slim Fast?  He’d heard of liposuction...but how could he find a physician to perform the operation?

The first step of Morbidly Obese, the self-help group came back to him, haunting: We admitted we were powerless over our compulsive death and dining behavior; our lives had become unmanageable.  Milton felt a tear at the corner of his eye and reached up to wipe it away: his finger came back smeared with blood, greedily he licked it from his own tantalizing digit.

The tiny taste of blood made him crazy, filled him with blood lust.  In the midst of his red-misted fervor, he thought: this is the way it is for addicts...the yearning controls them instead of the other way around. He realized he was powerless. And a tiny voice inside said: “Yes, Milton you are powerless...so go with it.  Why fight it?  Lay down the sword and the shield and drink until you’re full.  Go on, you deserve it.”

Milton was out of the crypt as fast as his pudgy legs could carry him.  There was no gliding on air for a 400-lb. vampire.  His hunger warred with his desire to be thin.  I’ll start tomorrow night, he told himself, heading toward a little theater he knew of, one that was in rehearsal for a production of Twelve Angry Men.  Twelve was such a lovely number, he thought, and licked his chops.  These twelve men won’t be so angry when I get through with them!

GET YOUR COPY (FREE WITH KINDLE UNLIMITED!)

Amazon Kindle

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Sissies Rule: A Little Taste of BIG LOVE


ABOUT THE BOOK
Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.

A new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth is also starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup, and the last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.

As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT
Truman leaned against the sink in the bathroom, examining his face closely. Both Mr. Wolcott and Mr. Bernard told him essentially the same thing: be true to yourself.

Don’t hide it.

Don’t be ashamed of it.

Who was he, anyway?

He was exactly what all the bullies tormented him about. He was a big sissy. There was no denying it. He had realized, through the long, sleepless night before his return to school today, that he had two choices when it came to being that sissy.

One: he could butch it up and pretend to be someone else. Just like he found glorious retro finds at the Goodwill, he knew he could also find a Carhartt jacket, work boots, jeans, and flannel shirts in a multitude of hues. Or he could go for the jock look—sneaks, sweatpants, and a sports logo’d T-shirt or sweatshirt. He could give himself a buzz cut and leave his curly blond locks on the bathroom floor. He could work to change his walk to a John Wayne swagger. He could pitch his voice lower. He could withdraw so deep down inside himself that no one would recognize him.

And that damn sissy, the one who had caused him so much trouble, would be banished, never to be seen again. Not even in the mirror.

Or…

Two: he could embrace who he was. Celebrate his inner and outer sissy. As Patsy had told him, time and time again, he was just as the Lord had made him. “The Lord,” Patsy always said, “doesn’t make mistakes, honey. It’s that simple. If there were anything wrong with who or what you are, you wouldn’t have been born that way. And believe me, you were born that way. I saw it with my own eyes.”

Being a sissy didn’t have to mean he was weak. It didn’t have to mean he was like a girl—and even if he was like a girl, so what? Why was that something bad? Why was that something to be ridiculed? Girls could be strong and smart—so what if he emulated them? His own mother was one, and look at her. She didn’t have much, but she took care of him and loved him fiercely…with an adoration and protectiveness that verged on ferocious.

He was a sissy. The choice—which was never a choice at all—was clear. He had to be who he was, to play the cards he’d been dealt. If he didn’t… well, he’d just be cheating.
And even if there were a way he could change, the one person he’d never be able to hide his true self from was himself. And what a horror that would be, to go through life masquerading as someone else.

No. Whether he was good or whether he was bad was immaterial.

He was Truman.

He stepped back away from the sink to admire himself in the mirror, and he gasped and then laughed—just a little. The person looking back at him was still him, but a stronger, more concentrated version.
A more beautiful version. His soul shone through.

Today might be a horrible day. But it was going to be on his own terms.

He turned for himself in the mirror once more. It was a good thing Patsy had worked herself to exhaustion the night before, because Truman had used the bathroom for two hours to get himself ready for school.
He paused before opening the bathroom door and heading out. He paused to blow himself a kiss in the mirror.

BUY THE BOOK

Thursday, February 16, 2023

How a Fever Dream Inspired My Alien Abduction Novel SKY FULL OF MYSTERIES

Sky Full of Mysteries is one of my most unusual novels, inspired by a fever dream, it plays with science-fiction elements like alien abduction and time travel to explore the lure of new love versus long-term established love and commitment.


ABOUT THE BOOK
What if your first love was abducted and presumed dead—but returned twenty years later?

That’s the dilemma Cole Weston faces. Now happily married to Tommy D’Amico, he’s suddenly thrown into a surreal world when his first love, Rory Schneidmiller, unexpectedly reappears.

Where has Rory been all this time? What happened to him two decades ago, when a strange mass appeared in the night sky and lifted him into the heavens? Rory has no memory of those years. For him, it’s as though only a day or two has passed.

Rory still loves Cole with the passion unique to young first love. Cole has never forgotten Rory, yet Tommy has been his rock, by his side since Rory disappeared.

Cole is forced to choose between an idealized and passionate first love and the comfort of a long-term marriage. How can he decide? Who faces this kind of quandary, anyway? The answers might lie among the stars….

BUY
NineStar Press
Amazon Kindle
(Paperback also available)

EXCERPT

Cole listened to the close of Tommy’s office door, the start of the new-age music he listened to as he wrote. Today it was Yiruma. Cole waited a moment, in case Tommy should open the door, and then headed down the hall to the master bedroom. He knew Tommy would not emerge until dinnertime, or even later, if he really got involved.

He sat down on the king-size bed, running his hand over the orange and gray quilt. Part of him simply wanted to collapse backward on it, close his eyes, and sleep for hours. The hum of the window air conditioner was soothing, and he knew he could be under within minutes if he allowed himself.

But no, it was the anniversary. He would do what he always did on this day. He pushed himself up and off the comfortable memory-foam mattress and walked to his closet. One of the advantages of the condo, which was built in the 1920s, was its massive size, a total of nearly 2500 square feet. Their bedroom was enormous and included two walk-in closets, one here and one they’d added off the en suite master bath.

Cole’s was in the bedroom, and even though he knew Tommy wouldn’t hear it, he opened his own closet double doors quietly, wincing at the familiar squeak of the hinges. Cole felt a rush of heat rise to his face, despite the frosty air-conditioned chill all around him. Guilt induced that heat, Cole knew. Like an addict, he’d told himself dozens of times he should put away his obsession with Rory. It wasn’t healthy, not for him, and certainly not for his marriage. Secrets never were. Tommy was understanding, sure, but Cole knew he didn’t realize the depth of Cole’s feelings for Rory, not after all these years. Tommy didn’t realize how much he still yearned for Rory, especially around this time of year.

Cole squatted down on the floor, pushing aside his rather sizable collection of running shoes, Cons, and sandals—no wingtips for this boy—and from the far back recesses of the closet, hidden by shadows and garment bags, pulled forth the old black Reebok shoebox. The box held his and Rory’s entire history. Sad thing was, there wasn’t even enough to fill it halfway.

As he opened the box, Cole wondered why he even bothered. In more logical moments, he told himself that the Rory he still loved didn’t even exist anymore, no matter what had happened. If he was alive, he would have aged, just like Cole, by twenty years. So much could happen, physically, emotionally, spiritually, to a person in two decades. Most people weren’t even close to the selves they were twenty years ago.

Still, he dug into the box. There were only a half dozen or so items inside, and Cole knew each and every one of them by heart. He could just as easily have sat in the kitchen and brought each item out in his mind, examined it, and put it back.

But there was something about touching the mementos. There was an electric connection to each item. He likened it to movies he’d seen about psychics—and how they could get a certain energy from a person off an object they’d touched.

First, there was his old ID for the Bally gym at Century City mall. Cole fingered it and laughed, remembering a time when he did have the energy for going to the gym on a regular basis. Thank God he did, because it was where he’d met Rory. At first sight, he knew that all he’d wanted to do was kiss the guy. He believed, and still did, in a way, that to kiss this kind of nerdy, uncoordinated, bespectacled young man would be a revelation and a kind of salvation for him. He’d be home. His wish had come true later that same day. And Cole had not been disappointed.

What they shared had been far too brief, but it had been real.

Next, there was a cereal box top Cole had hung on to through all these years, simply because it was Rory’s favorite breakfast food. It was kind of endearing that Rory loved Froot Loops so much. Cole used to kid him about how childish it was, that he should eat something more grown-up, sensible, something with a little fiber, for Christ’s sake. “Real men don’t eat Froot Loops,” he’d tease, playfully whacking the back of Rory’s head as he sat on their thrift-store couch, hunched over a mixing bowl full of the stuff, just going to town. “You want me to put some cartoons on?” Cole remembered asking, and Rory had nodded, grinning through a mouthful of milk and unnaturally colored, fruit-flavored confetti.

As the weeks and then months passed with no sign of Rory, he’d hung on to the cereal in the pantry. It wasn’t until he moved in with his sister, Elaine, and she was helping him pack up for his move, that he rescued the box of cereal from the trash, where she’d thrown it.

“Oh no, not this.” He’d snatched it out of the wastebasket.

“You and your sweet tooth,” she said, taking the box from him. She opened it and dug around inside, grinning at him. When she put some in her mouth, though, she spit it into the sink. “That stuff is stale, Cole. Tastes like sugary cardboard.” She replaced the box in the trash.

He waited until she was in the bathroom to rip off the top of the box as a souvenir. Even then it was stupid. But somehow the cereal was a concrete reminder of Rory, who could sometimes be a little kid in a very smart man’s body.

There was a poem Rory had written him, late one night after the third time they’d made love. It was scrawled on a yellow Post-it. Bad rhymes and nearly short enough to be a haiku, it was still the only poem a man had ever written to Cole, about Cole. Even Tommy hadn’t, and he made his living as a writer. Cole got a lump in his throat as his fingertips danced over the six lines and the words “You’re all my heart.”

He missed his sister too, although not nearly as much as Rory. She’d passed away the year before, much too soon, a victim of breast cancer. He knew he should get out to Arlington Heights more often and see his nephew, Bobby, who was in high school now.

He returned his attention to the contents of the box. Here was the photo of Rory unpacking in their new apartment. He wasn’t looking at the camera, his glasses had slipped down his nose, and his reddish-brown mop was a mess, sticking up in several different directions. Cole recalled Rory didn’t even know when Cole snapped the picture. He was too absorbed in what he was unpacking—his computer game software, his most treasured possession. Back then Cole thought the photo would be funny, something to rib Rory about once he’d had it developed at Walgreens.

But now, with the sunlight hitting Rory’s head just so, the youthful exuberance on his face, even the bend of that lithe young body, the photo had become sacred to Cole, a reminder of their beginning a new life together.

How short that life had been! If he had known it would all be snatched away just a few weeks later, would he have behaved any differently? That was the thing about life, though; we were never given the courtesy of a warning when something bad was about to strike. We could only mumble bitter what-ifs, which tasted like ash in our mouths.

Cole set the photo back in the box, eyes welling with tears. Why do I do this to myself? Once upon a time, it seemed there was a point to it, but no more. He was a middle-aged married man mourning a too-brief love from when he was in his prime. Pathetic.

He didn’t look at the rest—a takeout menu, a note Rory had left on the nightstand shortly before he disappeared, letting Cole know he’d gone to the gym—he simply put the lid back on the shoebox and then sat for a moment, cross-legged on the floor, staring at it.

As he did every year, he thought I really should get rid of that box. Burn it, maybe. And just like every year, he shoved it to the back of the closet, hiding it behind and under shoes.

It was his history. No one could take that away.

“Hon?” Tommy called from the hallway. “What are you thinking for dinner?”


Monday, February 6, 2023

BLINK and the 1980s


When I go back and re-read portions of Blink, my memoirish (I admit it!) gay love story, it takes me down memory lane—and back to my twenties. 

Youth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! I was 23 years old in 1981, when the first part of the book takes place and I was big in denial of my gay self. So big, in fact, that I was engaged to be married to my (female) college sweetheart. A large part of the first section of the book deals with two young men being attracted to one another on one of Chicago’s L trains.

Both of them had issues. The character modeled after me, Andy, had more issues that Carlos, the character Andy lusts after, to his great shame. But even Carlos, out at the time, but still not so proud, struggles a bit with his sexuality, which is evident from this little taste from Blink, taken from Chapter 2 and written from Carlos’ point of view.

EXCERPT
The guy obviously has a thing for me. I’ve caught him staring now a couple of times and, hey, I’m flattered. He’s cute. No, maybe that’s not a strong enough word. He’s handsome, with green eyes and dark wavy hair that clues me into some sort of Mediterranean heritage. Italian maybe? Greek?

Whatever. Maybe the word I’m looking for is hot.

I can imagine kissing him and the feel of his dark, bushy mustache against mine.

I don’t ride the train to meet men. I don’t do much to meet men, period, to be perfectly honest. I ride the train in the mornings simply to get to St. Philomena elementary school on the west side, where I teach fourth grade.

I’m okay with being gay. I wasn’t always, hence my stint in the seminary where I studied to be a priest. I learned pretty quickly, by the grace of god, and the hands and mouth of a fellow seminarian, that the priesthood was not work I was cut out for. Not if I wanted to live my life honestly, anyway.

So I left. I had already gotten my teaching degree, concurrent with my seminarian studies, so the job at St. Phil’s, low-paying as it was, was a natural fit.

But I digress. I’m trying to sort out my feelings for this sweetheart on the train. I know he’s gay too. I know he’s attracted. But I also know that nothing will ever come of it.

Why? Because I can see that, when our eyes meet, he’s filled with shame and guilt. I recognize his remorse because I cloaked myself in that dark, heavy fabric myself for many years.

And maybe still do, a little, to this day. The Church teaches us that same-sex feelings are to be avoided. They are not of our natural order. We should turn our sights away from our own sex and devote them instead to loving and pleasing the Lord.

Yeah, good luck with that.

The Lord created that cute guy that gives me the eye on the train, the one I feel this probably misplaced connection with. What is it about him that makes me think of him all the time? Why do I hope he’ll be in my train car every time I step on to it in the morning, even though most times he’s not? Why do I try and quickly scan the windows of the train as it rumbles into the station for a glimpse of him?

Is it just because he’s cute?

There are cute men, hunks, whatever, all around. I occasionally venture out to the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clark to the New Flight bar for happy hour and bring one of them home. Or I head up farther north to the Loading Zone on Oak, where I can watch free porn in the back or dance up front. Somebody usually brings me home.

I never make any lasting connections. I don’t even know if want to. Shame lingers on me like the scent of cigarette smoke after leaving those places.

But there’s something about the guy on the train. He tugs at my heart as well as my loins. Even from the brief glances we exchange, he makes me think there’s the possibility of more than just sex. He makes me think, for the first time in my young life, that maybe I could love another man.

And that terrifies me.

Read more of Blink to see where this flirtation on the train takes these two—does it take them to love? And how long does it take for them to get there?

BUY
Amazon Kindle
JMS Books


ABOUT THE BOOK
Life can change in the blink of an eye. That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago 'L' to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.

Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the 'L' train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

TOXIC My Catfishing Thriller Keeps You on the Hook

 

Toxic is a chilling thriller that #1 New York Times bestselling crime and thriller author Gregg Olsen calls,

 "a smart, nuanced novel of dark and compelling relationships with sparks of wicked humor - an unmitigated triumph by a master of twisted suspense..." 


ABOUT THE BOOK

Connor Ryman thought he had it all—a successful career as a mystery novelist, a condo with stunning views of Seattle’s Lake Union, a supportive and long-term partner, Steve, and a loving daughter, Miranda, who was following in her father’s creative footsteps.

It all went bad when Steve left the family suddenly. Jilted and heartbroken, Connor begins to search for love online. So long off the market, he enlists his daughter’s help in crafting a dating profile.

His prayers are answered when Trey Goodall, smart and handsome, answers his ad. He’s witty, urbane, a wealthy attorney, and his sex appeal is off the charts. But he’s a liar, a monster under a pretty mask. Miranda sees through the red flags and senses something very wrong beneath the fa├žade.

Can she convince her father to save himself before it’s too late? Or will Trey, a master manipulator with a very tainted history, play upon Connor’s innocence to ensnare him in a web of deceit, intrigue, and, ultimately, murder?

EXCERPT

Toxic
Rick R. Reed © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“I know who you are and I saw what you did.”

The voice on the phone was tinged with acid, yet came out a little shaky and short of breath.

Despite the fear and acrimony in the voice, Trey Goodall hoped that the caller, a man named Jimmy Dale, was making a feeble joke, a lame reference to an old black-and-white thriller from the ’60s. Trey wasn’t ready for his game to be over.

“That’s funny, Jim. Did you watch that movie when you were a kid too? Back in the days of black-and-white TVs and Chiller Theater?”

“I’m not trying to be funny, Trey.” Jimmy halted, obviously frustrated. A slow grin creased Trey’s features. Jimmy sucked in air, obviously holding a sob in check.

There’s something delicious about when they cry.

Despite the delight in Jimmy’s pain, Trey feared it might come to this. This one, he knew, was too smart to stay in the dark for long. Sooner or later, Trey always got found out. He had a trail of broken hearts—and shattered bank accounts—behind him to prove it. Still, later was better because he could usually walk away with a little something in his pocket.

“Then what are you trying to be, dollface?”

“Oh, please save the terms of endearment—”

Trey interrupted. “Another movie reference! Bravo. When do I get a chance to play?”

His question, predictably, was answered with silence on the other end. Trey pressed the phone closer to his ear, listening for further telltale signs of tears, of trauma, of despair. Not that his aim was to instigate any of those emotions, but Trey was like a dog—any attention was good.

Finally, Jimmy spoke. “I don’t want to see or hear from you ever again.”

“Aw, you’re breaking my heart here.” Trey threw open the door to his motel room on Aurora Avenue. Outside, in the waning purple-gray light of dusk, a couple fought, seemingly to the death, in the litter-strewn parking lot. The woman had bleached blonde hair, a handful of which her companion had clutched in one hand. She wore an old flannel shirt, the sleeves cut off. It had come open and her dirty bra showed. The guy was a brute, big and hairy, and obviously had never learned how to treat a lady.

A kid of about eighteen, at most, sat on the curb in front of a parked rusted-out SUV. He was wearing a hoodie, ripped jeans, and a pair of work boots. His head was shaved and this, combined with his whitish pallor and skin-and-bones physique, made him look like a concentration camp survivor. A rheumy, bloodshot gaze moved dully over to Trey. The kid made a lame attempt to hide the meth pipe in his hand.

Trey slammed the door. He deserved better than this sordid dump. He should have been living in a luxury condo downtown overlooking Puget Sound, or maybe a house on Bainbridge Island with expansive mountain and water views.

Instead, here he was on Seattle’s Aurora Avenue, in one of a cluster of rundown motels where the clientele consisted of addicts, prostitutes, and those seeking to party with a capital T in one of the rooms.

He didn’t deserve enduring the chance of bedbugs or crabs. He didn’t like living amid cigarette-burned carpets and mold and hair decorating the bathroom fixtures.

“Stop.” Jimmy sucked in some more air. The guy’s gonna need an asthma inhaler soon. But Trey supposed he was trying to gain a measure of control. Jimmy was wounded, and of course he wanted to hide it, but he couldn’t. “Your heart can’t be breaking because you haven’t got one to break.”

“Ouch.” Trey chuckled, as though to demonstrate the insult was simply water off a duck’s back.

But it wasn’t.

Trey would never let on, but the reference cut like a knife to his very real heart, which was a broken thing.

In his mind, a vision arose. Trey chased it away as quickly as it appeared—but there it was: a vision of his mom, back in Trey’s old hometown of Wellsville, Ohio, burning him with her cigarette and laughing as Trey tried to be brave, tried desperately not to scream or wince because he knew if he showed his pain, his fear, it would only make things worse. Now it was his turn to try to buck up, be brave. “Things not working out the way you expected?”

There was no mirth in Jimmy’s laugh. Trey wanted to ask which was better—bitter laughter or abject tears. But he kept quiet and waited. He’d been through this before. Caught. Discarded.

There was always another sucker in the wings.

“What I expected…” Jimmy trailed off and started again. “What I expected was maybe a relationship. I’m forty-seven years old, Trey. I’ve spent my whole life pushing love away so I could build my career. Now I have a thriving law practice and make more money than I really know what to do with. But you know all that. You knew all that, I figure, before we even met, when you were researching me. I know you don’t have it in you to feel compassion or empathy, but all the money and success in the world doesn’t change the fact that I come home every night to a professionally decorated condominium in the clouds. Alone. Wishing I’d spent more time seeking love instead of that almighty dollar.” He drew in a breath that sounded like a shudder. “Ah, what do you care? You wanted my money. You’re not alone, but you were greedier and sneakier than most.”

Jimmy stopped and Trey listened again for some sign. Would it be worth it to try to save things? Maybe woo Jimmy with the old lines—this was all a misunderstanding. I really love you, man. I started off with bad intentions, but then you caught me. Can we start over? Sometimes crap like that worked. Trey was smart enough, and experienced enough, to know it wouldn’t here.

It’s too late, baby.

“Was any of it true?” Jimmy wondered.

Trey was getting bored. He had no use for this man with whom he’d shared so many recent days and nights. He was worthless now that he’d exposed Trey for who he really was. What Jimmy didn’t know, and didn’t need to know, was that what he’d discovered about Trey was only the tip of the iceberg.

It’s time to move on.

Trey glanced in the mirror over the bathroom sink and nodded approvingly. He still had it. Pushing fifty, but looking at least a decade younger, he was gorgeous. Black wavy hair, ice-blue eyes, full lips, a body taut and packed with muscle. He could always dazzle, and all the magic hadn’t escaped.

There’d be someone else.

And with that someone else, he might hit that elusive jackpot.

The laptop was already open on the desk. And there were eleven new messages.

For once, Trey might as well tell the truth. “No, kid. None of it was true. You’re pathetic. Weak. I feel sorry for you, more than anything else.” He said the words casually, as though they were discussing the weather or how the Seahawks were faring this season. “You’re a fool. A fool for love.” Trey chuckled.

And that broke Jimmy. He began to sob harder now, the grief confirmed and kicking its way to the surface.

Trey listened as the sobbing grew in volume and agony. This is a drag, a bore. He stared longingly at the door, wishing this would be over. How long did he have to listen anyway? Just to be polite? He cut to the quick. “You’ve been played,” Trey said softly. “Get over it.”

He hung up. The computer’s glow reminded him that it was time to find someone else. The right one. A chime alerted him he had yet another message.

But there would be time to attend to that in the morning. Time also for reading. He glanced down at his nightstand. A mystery novel, Cookie Cutter by Alfred Knox, lay there in its mass market paperback edition. It had a stark white cover with only an illustration of a heart-shaped cookie cutter which dripped blood into the crimson title. Below it, a stack of old magazines with articles about Knox, who lived only a few miles south.

Right now, though, Trey needed a little oblivion. He crossed the room and opened the door. The kid with the meth pipe still sat out there on the curb. He didn’t even bother to hide his glass pipe now.

Trey cast his most winning smile. “Wanna come inside?” He opened the door wider, stepping back and confidently waiting as the kid stood.

BUY

NineStar Press | Books2Read | Amazon


Monday, January 30, 2023

New and Notable: THE VAMPIRE'S WAR by Damian Serbu

 


ABOUT THE BOOK

War brews among vampires. Facing extinction at the hands of an ancient one, the Vampire Council plods along with a secret strategy. Jaret Bachmann, both vampire and witch, fears the Council elders move too slowly. He has the power to assist them in defeating their enemy, but the longer they keep him at arm’s length the more defiant he becomes. He’s already pushing the boundaries to assert his will when tragedy strikes, devastating him and compelling him to become even more rebellious. A young vampire alone in the world, Jaret struggles to find his true self and discover how he wants to spend the remainder of his eternal life, even as the vampire war intensifies and the rogue vampire strikes again.

To compound his problems, he’s faced with the allure of a hot renegade vampire, not sure if he is friend or foe. Who will win the war, and where will Jaret’s soul-searching lead him? Find out in The Vampire’s War.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Damian Serbu is an author of gay horror/speculative fiction.  After over twenty years of teaching history at the collegiate level, he now writes full time. He lives in the Chicagoland area with his husband and two dogs. Find him at www.DamianSerbu.com, or keep up with his latest ramblings at https://twitter.com/DamianSerbu and https://www.facebook.com/damian.serbu

BUY

https://www.amazon.com/Vampires-War-Damian-Serbu/dp/164890601X