Monday, August 31, 2009

Don Juan and Men anthology edited by Caro Soles

The story of Don Juan is a popular one and has appeared in many guises throughout literary and musical history. The Spanish Don, with his single minded drive to seduce, conquer and desert those who fall under his spell, fascinates us all. He is a man of power, a man who goes against the rules, a cynic with devastating charm. But the stories in this anthology will explore a side of the Don that has not been examined before. What if Don Juan were gay?

Don Juan and Men: Tales of Lust and Seduction, an anthology edited by Caro Soles, contains stories that range from literary to in-your-face erotic, from fantasy to historical, to other-worldly and more. But they all have something to say about Don Juan and Men.

This excerpt is from the opening of the story “A Weekend in the Country” by Caro Soles, and takes place in new York City, 1916.

Don Juan and Men: Tales of Lust and Seduction
MLR Press (August, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1608200469
ISBN-13: 978-1608200467


I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love him, hate him, sometimes want to thrust a stiletto into his black heart. He has ruined my life but I do not want to live in a world without my lord, Count Andrei Alexandrovitch Rubikov.

Even here in America, so far away from our Mother Russia, he is a magnet for all in society. He fits in here, I do not. They court him, flatter him outrageously, for his looks, his wealth, his title. Me they look at sideways, trying not to see what I am, what I long for, lest it contaminate them, make them see my lord in a darker light. I watch them trying to place me; not a servant, yet not quite an equal. There is no title before my name, yet I am at ease in society, know everyone he knows. And I know his secrets. Sometimes I think this shows in my eyes and it scares them.

As I stand near the half open door to the Streusser’s ballroom, I watch him through the potted palms, the curly ferns reaching out to tickle my cheek. I see Andrei swing his blushing partner expertly into the next waltz, watch his full lips moving as he tells her lies, watch his green eyes slide away to fasten on the figure of her lanky dark-eyed fiancé Paul, standing in a group of young men, laughing. I see their eyes meet, and watch the young man’s laughter fade away as his gaze is held captive by the hunter. I know that look. Even though it is not directed at me now, I can feel the force of it, as if my body is attached to Andrei in some way, as if an unseen web is vibrating between us. My heart lurches.

The music rolls on, spilling out the door of the ballroom into the garden of this huge country house on the Hudson where Andrei and I are guests for the weekend. And then the dance is over and he has brought her back to her seat on the other side of the palms. She is not an attractive girl, hardly even a girl any more, but her heavy face is flushed and her eyes sparkle. Bathed in the reflection of Andrei’s charm, she is almost pretty.

“Thank you, mademoiselle,” he says, bowing over her hand. The diamond pin of the order of St. Dimitri flashes on his chest. “You are a lucky man, monsieur,” he goes on, turning to the fiancé, Paul.

He blushes, though whether at the compliment or at the heat of those green eyes it is impossible to say. “I know that, sir. Sometimes I pinch myself to see if it is all a dream.”

“A lovely dream to be enjoyed while it lasts,” Andrei says.

“While it lasts?” Paul says, his shoulders straightening, his chin rising. He is not as tall as Andrei. He looks like an adolescent beside him.

"Of course, my dear sir. It will be over once you are married, no? She will not be your fiancée then, but your dear wife?”

The young man relaxes and laughs and glances at his young lady, who fusses with her dance card, crossing off a name, adding another as she chats with a young man who has come to claim his dance. The music changes to a fox trot, a dance made popular recently by the Castles.

“Do you enjoy a good cigar, by any chance?” Andrei asks Paul. “I am becoming quite the aficionado, with the help of your soon-to-be father-in-law.” He moves between Paul and the other young men, effectively cutting him away from his friends. Like a sheepdog, rounding up strays.

They stroll out into the garden and he sees me.

“Misha! Join us for a cigar.” His eyes are bright, with a light I recognize all too well. My presence will give Paul a false sense of security. My frustration will fuel Andrei’s desire for the other.

“‘When the wolf shows his teeth he isn’t laughing’,” I say in Russian.

He smiles wider, his sensual lips glistening in the wavering light of the one gas lamp at the side of the red brick path. “Misha and his Russian proverbs,” he says moving closer to Paul to show his allegiance is with him, the new friend, not me.

“What does it mean?” Paul accepts the cigar from Andrei, reaches for the cutter on
his watch chain.

“It means that he is sulking,” Andrei says. “It means he worries too much, mon cher.”

Paul does not seem to notice the endearment as he clips the end off his cigar and moves along the path beside Andrei.

“It is difficult bearing the hope of one’s family on one’s shoulders,” Andrei says softly.

Paul looks at him, but says nothing. I can’t read his expression in the shadows.

“In my country we have another proverb,” Andrei goes on. “‘Marry your son when you will, your daughter when you can.’ Misha taught me that one.” He smiles and looks at Paul. He leans closer. “I understand. I have a wife at home chosen by my father. She is not beautiful, but sweet, like your fiancée. And with a lot of money.”

The web of half-truths and outright lies he spins wraps around Paul, light as gossamer, strong as silk, and soon the young man is confessing his plight. And yes, the hope of his family does lie on his shoulders. His is an old name and pedigree here, but there is no longer any money left. He has three sisters who need dowries.

“I am very fond of Olive,” Paul says.

“Of course you are,” Andrei soothes.

The farther away we have come from the house, the closer Andrei has moved to him until they are now arm in arm. It appears a quite a natural progression, since I am also arm in arm on his other side, but I know they have forgotten about me already. Soon Andrei will slide out from my grasp and steer Paul away from me and out of sight in the rose garden.

“A life without passion,” Andrei murmurs, “is hardly worth living.”

Paul was leaning into Andrei now and I can almost feel him shiver as I withdrew into the shadows.

A woman’s voice shatters the perfumed air. “Paul? Are you out here?” It’s Olive, the fiancée.

I watch the two men pause, raise their heads, look at each other. Paul will be startled, pulled out of the dream he has walked into, guilt flooding over him at what he has confessed, what he has experienced.

I can almost feel Andrei’s annoyance as Paul slips from him, hurrying back to the warmth and light and security of the familiar. But he turns at the steps to the porch and says, “We’ll continue our talk later, sir.” He raises a hand. Even then he hesitates.

Andrei is barely visible in the shadows, and I feel him tremble with suppressed anger at the woman for her unfortunate timing. I move beside him and we watch until they finally disappear within.


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Monday, August 24, 2009

Jacob's Pony excerpt by Jude Mason

In a world where man power takes the place of machine power, pony boys are the norm. Can a wealthy land owner fall for his steed?

In Jude Mason's Jacob's Pony, society has finally decided that putting criminals in prison and forcing society to pay for their upkeep just isn't working. So a three-strikes-and-you're-out law is created. On the third strike, the convict is sentenced to lifelong slavery. He or she loses all rights and is sold to the highest bidder. The only rule for the buyer is he, or she, can't end the life of the slave.

Jacob Scott is a landowner and slaveholder. He's single, dashing, gay and very much into treating his slaves well. He's just bought a shipment of slaves and one of them, David, catches his eye. The attraction grows, and as the slave is put through his paces, their lust turns to a more tender affection. When David declares his innocence, Jacob wonders if he might be telling the truth.

How can a wealthy landowner trust a convicted felon? Can a slave truly find a way into his master’s heart?

Jacob’s Pony
Publisher: Total E-Bound
ISBN: 978 1 907010 38 4


Jacob Scott stood looking through the tall, multi-paned window of his study, watching the many slaves bent forward, labouring in the fields. Hobbled in groups of six, the muscular men were forced to work as teams, eat only when their mates ate, sleep together, do everything together. Over time, the work slaves bonded, became more like brothers than the slaves they’d been sentenced as.

Criminals no longer filled the prisons. In the collapse of 2045, prison had been deemed an ineffectual way to deal with those who broke society’s laws. The resources no longer existed to pamper them, and their labour could be used much more productively. Slowly the prisons emptied as guards cleaned the men up and sent them to newly built auction houses where they were sold to the highest bidder. Farming, mining, and mundane jobs were no longer done by machine, but by slave power. The young and good-looking found themselves in a different kind of bondage. Trained as male whores, they became the lunchtime playthings and subservient toys of anyone who could pay the pittance their owners charged. Unable to refuse a client’s desires, the slaves became accustomed to being used and abused dozens of times a day.

Jacob thought about those early days, when the first few slaves appeared. A great many people had still thought of them as convicts and wanted revenge. Prices were high and the typical family couldn’t afford the luxury of slave ownership. The poor sods were abused terribly until the citizenry realised that slavery was punishment enough in most cases.

When more slaves became available, prices went down and the average household could afford at least one. It became commonplace to see naked, or nearly naked, men going about the business of their Masters or Mistresses.

It was easy to spot a slave. Upon being sold, they were branded and collared. The collar could be changed, but the brand was permanent and always visible. It was incredibly rare for a slave to be given his freedom.

A large, white delivery dray pulled into the drive and stopped outside the front door. The eight draft slaves who’d drawn the vehicle staggered and gasped for breath, their bodies slick with sweat from the hard climb to his home. Jacob’s attention shifted from the men in the field to the back of that cart. He waited patiently for the driver to get out and open the back. Jacob knew what the cargo would be. He’d done the purchasing himself and was eager to see the four new slaves climb out.

The first clambered out and stumbled, nearly falling to the grass. The only thing that kept him erect was the chain joining his collar to that of his neighbour. Each man’s hands were secured to their collar and each collar had a short length of chain joining him to another. All of them were nude and all of them were young, well-muscled male animals. In truth, that was exactly what each of them was. Their humanity had been stripped from them when the judge had declared them to be slaves.

“Master, you asked to be informed when the shipment arrived.”

Jacob turned towards the soft masculine voice. “Thank you, Imp. Get my shoes and have them at the door for me.”

The slave, Imp, bowed and rushed from the room. He’d been one of Jacob’s first acquisitions and still served him well, although he was long past his prime. At least thirty-five, his body was no longer as firm or as smooth as it had been, but his cock still rose on command and he could keep from coming for as long as Jacob wanted. Years of training had definitely paid off with Imp.

Jacob watched the play of the slave’s muscular arse and thighs as he hurried down the long, carpeted hall. Imp wasn’t quite naked, but the tiny strip of cloth hanging from a string around his waist did little to conceal his genitals. Another perk of owning slaves, Jacob thought and smiled thinking of how many new slaves balked at the indecency of their attire.

When Imp vanished around the corner at the end of the hall, Jacob returned his attention to the window and the slaves disembarking.

All four were dark-haired and deeply tanned. They could have been related, and that was what he’d aimed for when he’d searched the auction house. The slaves stood side by side, and he noticed that even their cocks were about the same size and shape. Shaved as they were, he could see their balls also appeared similar, hanging low against their thighs.

When he was sure they were lined up properly and ready for his inspection, he headed into the hallway. At the end, he turned left and trotted down the curved staircase. The lower floor was luxurious, beautifully decorated in pale mauve and gold, the drapes matching the brocade on the large couches and chaise lounges he’d chosen. Tile mixed with wood covered the floors, and mats covered them from the worst of the traffic. Large urns and flower arrangements were tucked away in corners or against the wall, strategically placed to better show off the beauty of the place. A small army of slaves kept it clean and the flowers fresh.

He strode to the large front door where Imp waited. The slave stood close to the wall, hands behind his head, his back arched, chest and groin thrust forward. The display was the typical ‘at rest’ pose most slaves were taught to use while waiting.

Jacob sat on the bench and lifted one foot. Imp dropped to his knees and quickly slid the soft leather boot on him. The second followed. A moment later, Jacob rose and stroked the kneeling man’s head. “Good boy. You’re still my Imp.”

“Thank you, Master. I hope to be your Imp for many more years.”

Jacob turned and waited while Imp opened the large wooden door before striding towards the waiting slave dray. The four new ones stood in the shade, lined up beside the side of the dray. They’d assumed the same pose as Imp had taken, and also spread their feet wide, completing the display position.

All of their bodies had been shaved and the brand was fresh on their left buttock. Jacob stopped in front of them and waited for the elderly, grey-haired delivery man to offer him the paperwork to sign. He checked it, making sure all four of the beasts were listed then scrawled his name. Handing the tablet back, he said, “Thanks. Do you need the collars back?”

“Nah, the boss said whenever you’re in town to drop them off,” the man replied cordially. He flipped Jacob a key that would no doubt open all of the collars, which he slid into his pocket.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Mahu Vice excerpt by Neil S Plakcy

Mahu Vice, by Neil S Plakcy, begins with the death of a young Chinese boy in an arson at a shopping center once owned by Kimo’s father—a place readers might recognize from the first books in the series. Kimo discovers, as he works once more with fire investigator Mike Riccardi, that there is unfinished business between them. In this excerpt, Kimo spends some time with Mike and realizes that the case may be tied to his past in more ways than just the location of the fire.

Mahu Vice
Alyson Books (August 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1593501110
ISBN-13: 978-1593501112


On my way home, Mike called my cell. “I’ve got a lead,” he said. “You going to be home tonight?”

“I’m on my way there now,” I said, then regretted it. I was having enough trouble dealing with Mike on neutral ground, with others present. What was I doing inviting him over? And what was he doing asking?

It was just after five, the height of rush hour, and the sun was setting. The streets were alive with neon and with car stereos blasting hip hop, as the tropical night descended rapidly. The air was hot and humid, without a hint of a trade wind. The slow traffic and intermittent showers made me edgy, combined with the sense that our case wasn’t moving forward either. Or maybe it was just knowing that I was going to see Mike.

When I pulled into my parking space, he was sitting in his truck on the street, the same one with the flames painted on the side that he’d been driving when we dated. “I had an idea,” he said, getting out of the truck and walking toward me. “I cross-referenced a bunch of unsolved arsons, and I think I found a pattern.”

He showed me a list of ten arsons over the past two years, but the sun was setting and it was too dark to see clearly, so I led him upstairs to my apartment. Fortunately, I’d cleaned up on Sunday so most of the clothes and sports equipment were put away, and there were no crusty dishes in the sink or dirty underwear on the floor to embarrass me.

He sat down at my kitchen table, and I got us a pair of Longboard lagers from the fridge—only realizing as I popped the caps that if Mike was an alcoholic, based on that vodka in his water bottle, it was a bad idea to give him a beer.

He accepted the bottle gratefully, and took a deep swig. “Long day,” he said.

I sat across from him and looked at the list. The other fires had been at a massage parlor in Waikele, a quick mart in Kaneohe, a coffee shop near the airport, a Christian religious shop downtown, and a lingerie shop in Chinatown. “They were all places where the business closed down before the fire,” Mike said. “I want to see if there’s anything else that connects them. Business licenses, phone numbers, that kind of thing. You have any ideas?”

There was something familiar about that lingerie shop, and I struggled to make the connection. Then it hit me. “I know this shop.”

Mike looked at me, his eyebrows raised. “My old partner from Waikīkī, Akoni, and I went there when we were investigating Tommy Pang’s murder. Tommy owned the place. I wonder if any of these others were owned by tong guys.”

“Can you run them by your Organized Crime unit tomorrow?”

“I will.” Something was tickling around the edge of my brain. “The pharmacist’s wife told me that she thought the old Chinese woman at the clinic was named Norma. And at this lingerie shop, there was another old Chinese woman named Norma.” I reached over to the sofa, picked up my laptop and brought it to the table, where I turned it on. “If I can pull up the report online, maybe I can find her last name, and we’ll see if we can connect her to both places.”

Mike scooted his chair around next to me and looked on as I logged on to the department’s intranet and searched for the right files. Being so close to Mike unleashed a wave of pure longing, followed by sadness. I had loved him, and I’d been devastated to find out that he’d cheated on me, thinking at the time that it meant he hadn’t loved me the way I’d loved him. I’d over-reacted—but if we hadn’t broken up over that incident, something else would have happened to tear us apart.

Mike still wore the same lemon-scented cologne, and I wondered if he’d reapplied it in his truck while waiting for me to pull up. What did he want from me? Why couldn’t this meeting have waited until the next morning, and included Ray?

I multi-tasked-- talking to Mike, searching the files, and at the same time considering Mike’s motives. I’m no computer geek; I leave that to Harry Ho. It took me a lot of searching, because I wasn’t giving it my full attention, to pull up the reports from Tommy Pang’s murder.

It wasn’t an investigation I was happy to recall, since it was the one that had dragged me out of the closet two years before. But I found Norma Ching’s name in one of our reports. “You think this might be the same old woman?” Mike asked.

“Worth checking,” I said. A few minutes later, I’d run out of options. There was no listing for Norma in the phone book, or in Yahoo’s people search, and she had no criminal record.

Tommy Pang, who had owned the lingerie shop, was my Uncle Chin’s illegitimate son. Would his widow, my Aunt Mei-Mei, have known Norma? I looked at my watch. It was dinner time, and I knew if I showed up at her house she’d ply me with delicious food. Mike, too, if he was along for the ride.

“Want to take a trip up to St. Louis Heights with me?” I asked.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Hard Candy excerpt by Amanda Young

Amanda Young's Hard Candy brings you three novellas of torrid love between men. In this excerpt from one of these stories, Man Candy, Aaron Samuels has a secret. He's in love with his boss, Logan Remora. Logan is everything Aaron's ever wanted in a man, except he's straight... and married.

Hard Candy
Publisher: CreateSpace July 10, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1448614120
ISBN-13: 978-1448614127


Aaron jerked back, his gaze flying from his feet up to the man -- Logan or Jake, though he couldn’t tell which -- who stood a couple of yards away. The sudden movement caused him to overbalance in the swing. The seat shot forward, while his torso went backward. His back hit the ground, startling him, but doing no real damage to anything other than his pride.

The man appeared above him, the wry twist to his sinfully shaped lips automatically identifying him as Jake. Logan was much too serious most of the time. “You okay?” He held out his hand.

“Yeah,” Aaron replied as he accepted Jake’s hand and allowed himself to be hauled to his feet. “Haven’t I already told you to quit sneaking up on me?” Aaron wiped bits of grass off his clothes as he glared at Jake.

“Uh, no.” Jake frowned. “And I didn’t mean to surprise you. It’s not like I was hiding in the bushes and jumped out yelling ‘Boo.’ Besides, you wouldn’t startle so easy if you would just relax a little. You’re too damn high-strung.”

“Fuck you,” Aaron responded defensively.

Jake chuckled, the deep, husky sound going right to Aaron’s balls, the fickle bastards that they were. “About time.”

“Huh?” Maybe he’d conked his head harder than he thought ’cause Aaron had no idea what Jake was talking about.

“I’ve been waiting for you to drop that proper little façade you wear around the office all day and be yourself. I just knew you’d be a spitfire as soon as you learned to let go a little.” Jake’s arm extended and his fingers brushed over the side of Aaron’s face. Aaron’s gaze widened at the touch. Jake shrugged. “You had a bit of grass on your cheek.”

Jake’s touch lingered, and Aaron had to bite down on the inside of his cheek to keep from moaning, or worse. When Jake’s thumb grazed the corner of his lips, a tremor ran down Aaron’s spine. Jake’s scent surrounded him, wrapped him in its musky essence, a light hint of spicy cologne teasing his nose. He wanted to close his eyes and lose himself in the moment, but couldn’t allow himself the pleasure. Showing his absorption in something as simple as a gentle touch would be way too telling about his feelings.

A voice in his head spoke up, warning him that it wasn’t Jake he was attracted to. He was only responding so strongly because of the resemblance to Logan. Wasn’t he?

“You’re so beautiful.”

Jake’s huskily whispered words yanked Aaron out of his musings. He shook his head, his cheeks heating because of the compliment. “No, I’m not. I’m --” There was nothing special about him. He was too short, too skinny, too everything.

He couldn’t do this. His dick throbbed angrily in response to his choice, but he ignored it and jerked away from Jake. Immediately, he missed the connection, but he forced himself to take an extra step back, needing more distance between them. The temptation to return the gentle touch, to see where it might lead, rode him hard. Jake’s allure was almost too strong to resist, but Aaron persevered. There was no other option.

Letting go of his tightly held restraint would be akin to playing with fire. And though he knew better, his body craved the heat Jake offered. Craved it worse than a nicotine addict does a smoke right after sex.

Aaron inwardly groaned. Sex. Visions of him and Jake, their limbs sweaty and flushed by a vigorous round of fucking, popped into his head. The image was so real, he could almost feel the damp heat, taste the salty tang of well-earned perspiration. He didn’t even need Jake to torment him; he was doing a good enough job of it himself.

Jake stepped forward and reached for him. Aaron hastily backpedaled away. His ass smacked into something hard and cylindrical. He felt around behind him, touched cool metal, and realized he’d run into one of the poles anchoring the swing set. He squeezed his eyes shut. Jesus, he was a klutz.

Strong hands bracketed his shoulders. “Look at me.”

Aaron shook his head in answer, refusing to open his eyes. He was being childish and he knew it, but it would be all too easy to lose himself in those dark, mesmerizing eyes. Casual sex was fine, not a thing wrong with it, but he couldn’t make love to Jake and not let his feelings for Logan get in the way. Jake clearly only wanted a plaything and would move on as soon as the thrill of the conquest was over. By then, it would be too late. Aaron would be head over heels and shit out of luck.

A finger caressed Aaron’s jaw, tilting his chin up. “Am I that unattractive to you, Aaron?”

Aaron could hear the smile in Jake’s voice, and it incensed him. The smug bastard knew full well that wasn’t the problem. He opened his eyes and glowered up at Jake, who towered over him, close to six inches taller than Aaron’s own five foot nine. “Stop it, Jake. Quit toying with me.”

A frown creased Jake’s forehead. “I’m not --” His voice cut off, and then with a little shake of his head he leaned down, bringing their eyes into alignment. The tip of his nose ran over Aaron’s in feathery Eskimo kisses.

Aaron pressed his hands into Jake’s chest and felt Jake’s heartbeat thundering against his palms. His fingers flexed over Jake’s pecs, unable to resist, and he wanted to moan in response to the wicked feel of them contracting against his touch.

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

Okay, so that wasn’t precisely the truth. It was clear enough what Jake wanted. The question resting heavy on Aaron’s mind was why. In all the time he’d worked for Remora Construction, Jake had never come on to him. Sure, they’d flirted back and forth a little bit, but that was it. Aaron couldn’t understand why Jake was hitting on him now. It made no sense.

Jake quirked a single brow. “Don’t you?”
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Time After Time excerpt by J.P. Bowie

In Time After Time by J.P. Bowie, Michael Ballantyne, a young graphic artist living in Los Angeles, bewildered by a series of erotic dreams, is eager to uncover their meaning. When he is informed that he is the sole beneficiary in an unknown man's will and is now the owner of a large estate in Hertfordshire, England, Michael feels that somehow he has been given a key to unlock the dreams' mysteries. This feeling grows stronger when he comes face to face with Jonathan Robertson, a handsome Englishman, who more than just resembles the man in his dreams.

Together they attempt to solve the mystery that surrounds the disappearance and apparent murder of Jonathan Harcourt, the son of the previous owner of Bedford Park.

The mutual attraction they quickly feel for one another is hampered by the sudden arrival of Michael's jealous boyfriend, Steve Miller, and by Jack Trenton, a formidable and uninvited presence who has occupied the lodge by the estate gates.

When Michael, along with his now ex-boyfriend, Steve, is held hostage by Trenton, it becomes clear that Bedford Park holds many more secrets than anyone ever thought. Michael and Jonathan are soon to discover that the keepers of those secrets are dangerous men, willing to stop at nothing in order to make an ancient oath come to pass.

Time After Time
Publisher: MLR Press (June 21, 2009)
ISBN: 9781608201566


For the umpteenth time in twenty minutes Michael Ballantyne glanced toward the diner entrance to see if his brother Brad had yet deigned to arrive for their lunch date. “Where in hell is he?” he muttered to himself, sucking up half his iced tea in frustration. He caught the waiter’s eye and ordered a burger. No point in waiting any longer – looked like Brad was a no show.

He tried to shuck off the feeling of disappointment that his brother hadn’t even bothered to call him to say he couldn’t make it, but just as the waiter took his order, Michael saw a red-faced Brad dash into the diner and scan the crowded room. On seeing Michael wave at him, he hurried over to the booth.

“Shit, sorry,” he said sliding onto the seat opposite Michael. “Had a client who just wouldn’t get off the phone. What’re you having?”


“I’ll have the same,” Brad told the waiter, “and a beer.”

“Drinking at lunch time?”

“I’m taking the afternoon off. I’ve been working way too hard lately.”
Michael chuckled. “Who told you that?”

“I told me that, my boy – and it’s the truth. Five closings in one month, two of ‘em utter bastards – I’m exhausted.” Brad slumped in his seat to emphasize his words.

“You should be pleased – everyone else I know in real estate is bitching about how slow it is.”

“That’s ‘cause they don’t know how to play a bad market.” Brad grinned at his brother. “So, how’re you doin’?”


“Still seeing Steve?”

“I guess…”

“You guess?”

Michael gazed at his brother’s handsome face, his forehead now creased by a frown. “Well, he’s out of town right now on a business trip trying to find new clients. I haven’t seen very much of him lately. I think he’s losing interest.”

Brad raised an eyebrow. “What a clown. Losing interest in a good looking dude like you – if you weren’t my brother, I’d be putting the make on you myself.”

Michael laughed softly. “You’d have to turn gay too. I don’t think Miranda would approve, do you?”

“Probably not.” Brad touched Michael’s hand. “He’s not good enough for you, bro. Miranda and I both agree on that.”

Michael shrugged. “Steve’s all right. He’s just a businessman first.”

“Huh…” Brad fell silent as the waiter delivered their burgers and his beer. “So, you said you hadn’t been sleeping too well recently. What’s up with that?”

Michael hesitated. Did he really want to tell his brother about the strangely erotic dreams he’d been having? Dreams that would wake him in the middle of the night and keep him awake with the memory of how incredible they were – how incredible the man in the dreams was. He felt his face flush as he remembered.

“What’s wrong?” Brad was staring at him with concern.

“Nothing…it’s just that I’ve been having these strange dreams for the last three weeks or so. It’s a bit embarrassing…”

“How so?”

Michael shifted in his seat and couldn’t meet his brother’s eyes as he answered. “Um… they’re kind of erotic…” He cleared his throat. “You don’t want to hear this.”

“Try me.”

“Well. There’s this guy, and he’s making love to me.”

“And it’s not Steve, I take it,” Brad said through a mouthful of burger.

Michael shook his head. “No, it’s not anyone I know, or have ever known. I’d like to know him,” he added with a shaky laugh. “He’s English, and is quite, uh…incredible.”

“English, huh? So what’s the problem?”

“There’s no problem. I’m just a bit confused as to why I should have the same dream about the same guy, night after night.”

“Some kind of wish fulfillment maybe,” Brad suggested. “I mean, it sounds like your relationship with Steve isn’t going anywhere, so you’re compensating by dreaming of a guy who’ll love you unconditionally.”

Michael stared at his brother. “Okay, when did you become a budding Freud?”

Brad chuckled and picked up a napkin to wipe his mouth. “Nothing very complicated there, Michael. You’re horny, so getting off in your dreams works like a charm.”


“Well, doesn’t it?”

“Trust you to take it to the lowest common denominator.”

“And trust you to make more of it than it is,” Brad said, grinning. “Every guy has a wet dream now and then, Michael – especially when they’re not getting any.”

Michael groaned and shook his head. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you about this. Now you’re going to give me shit about it every time we’re together. Don’t tell Miranda!”

“Are you kidding? She’ll love this. She’ll think it so romantic that her brother-in-law has a dream man in his life.”

“That’s the problem – he’s not in my life.”

“Nor is Steve by the sounds of things. You know what I think?”

“No, but I know you’re about to tell me.”

“I think you should tell Steve to go to hell. He keeps you dangling there for his own convenience. You know, Miranda and I have talked about this…”

“Oh great,” Michael moaned. “My brother and sister-in-law sit around talking about my love life.”

Brad chuckled. “Or lack of it. But seriously, I haven’t said this before, but Steve’s not the guy for you. He’s just way too self-centered…”

“Well, he’s got a lot on his mind. Running your own business is a full-time commitment…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Brad made a dismissive gesture. “But that night we all had dinner together I couldn’t get over the fact that every time the conversation strayed to something that didn’t directly concern him, his eyes sorta just glazed over, and he lost all interest in what we were saying. I mean what d’you guys talk about when you’re together? Is he remotely interested in what you do?”

“Of course he is.” Michael looked away from his brother’s searching gaze. “Well, I think he is…”

“Well, he should be. Graphic art is…is art for Chrissakes. You’re a talented guy. What does he do? Sells computer parts – no talent needed for that, is there?”

“Brad, you’re being very judgmental all of a sudden.”

Brad’s eyes narrowed as he stared at Michael. “I don’t want to see my little brother get hurt, that’s all. It doesn’t take an analyst to see you’re unhappy. Dreaming about getting laid instead of getting the real thing means you’re compensating for what’s lacking in your life.”

Michael sighed. “Okay I admit I’m a tad ticked off he doesn’t seem to want to spend more time with me, but I really don’t think the dreams have anything to do with Steve. They’ve just started recently…”

“Because you’re frustrated…” Brad gave him a mischievous smile. “Tell me, how d’you feel when you wake up from one of these dreams? Are you, uh…damp?”

“Brad.” Michael felt his face grow hot. “You really are too much.” He looked around the crowded diner praying no one could hear their conversation, but the noise level was reassuringly high.

Brad laughed at his brother’s embarrassment. “Michael, you and I have shared just about everything in our lives. There’s not much you and I don’t know about each other – we’ve slept in the same bed, shared the same tent on camping trips, skinny dipped together – and then there was that time when we…”

“Okay, now you’re really embarrassing me,” Michael hissed under his breath. But what Brad had said was true. Unlike a lot of siblings, he and Brad had always been close – a bond that had grown even stronger after the unexpected death of their parents. Now he gazed fondly at his brother’s smiling face, at the sparkle in his eyes, and knew he could tell him just about anything.

“All right, yes I’m…I’m…”


Michael groaned. “Yes.”

“And the guy?”

“Incredible, like I said. He’s like a god come to life. Dark hair that falls in curls over his forehead, eyes so dark blue they’re almost cobalt, lips that…Jesus, why am I telling my straight brother all this?”

“Because you want to share, and we always share, remember? You listened to me when Miranda and I were having our problems and despite the fact that I’m straight, I love my gay baby brother, and I want to see you happy – and laid.”

Michael’s laugh was followed by a smile of real affection. “I love you too, big brother – and you’ll be the first to know when it happens.”

“Well, after you, hopefully,” his brother kidded him.


Later, as he entered his apartment, Michael immediately noticed the flashing light on his answering machine. Steve? He could only hope. He hesitated before pressing the message button. What Brad had said about Steve still bothered him. Was he being blind to Steve’s faults simply because he didn’t want the relationship, such as it was, to fail?

“Oh, come on,” he muttered. “Get a grip.” He pressed the button and sighed with disappointment as a voice rasped in his ears. It wasn’t Steve…

“This message is for Mr. Michael Ballantyne. My name is Ronald Fortescue of Fortescue, Reynolds and Haversham, Solicitors. My office is located in London, England, and we represent the estate of Mr. Lionel Burroughs. Mr. Burroughs, I regret to say, passed away quite recently and has left a will that names you, Mr. Ballantyne, as his sole beneficiary.”

Michael stared at the answering machine in disbelief. “What the hell? Is this some kind of joke?”

“If you would care to phone my office as soon as possible, I will make arrangements to inform you of the exact details of Mr. Burroughs will – along with the conditions of your inheritance. Here is my number…”

Michael had to play the message twice more before his shaking fingers could write the number down. This had to be some kind of a hoax, like one of those emails he got now and then telling him he’d won a million dollars on a lottery he’d never entered. But the man had left a phone number… He glanced at his watch. Six o’clock. London was what…eight hours ahead? No point in calling right then. He’d do it first thing in the morning. Should he call Brad and tell him? No…he’d wait until he’d spoken to this Fortescue guy. Maybe the whole thing was one big mistake…they’d gotten the wrong Michael Ballantyne. Yeah, that was it…there had to be a hundred Michael Ballantynes in the Los Angeles phone book. They’d just picked the wrong one.

Quickly, he punched in Brad’s number. “Hi Brad, it’s Michael.”

“No kidding. I do have caller ID y’know.”

“Right. Listen, I just got a weird message on my answering machine.”

“Well, this is LA, Michael.”

“Be serious. Some guy from England is telling me I’ve been left an inheritance or something…”

“Sweet. How much?”

“I don’t know that – but Brad, I’ve never heard of this guy…a Lionel Burroughs. Have you?”

“Burroughs? Nope, can’t say I have.”

“You think he might have been a friend of Mom and Dad’s?”

“I have no idea, Michael. I don’t recall them ever mentioning a Lionel Burroughs. They were only in England that one time, remember?”

Michael remembered only too well. It was shortly after that trip that his parents had been killed in a deadly freeway accident involving multiple vehicles. The memory of that terrible time sent an involuntary shudder through Michael’s body.

“Yes,” he said quietly. “I remember… Anyway,” he continued after clearing his throat, “I have to call this solicitor guy in London tomorrow. I guess he’ll be able to tell me what the connection is.”

“Can’t wait to hear more, bro. Call me soon as you’ve talked to him.”

“Will do… I’ll talk to you later. Tell Miranda ‘hi’.”

With another glance at the phone number he’d written on the notepad he kept by the phone, Michael walked through his bedroom into the bathroom to undress. He had no plans for the evening and was looking forward to lounging in sweats in front of the television with a pizza and beer. He stood for a moment in front of the mirror as he removed his shirt and gazed at himself critically.

What was it about him that Steve found so easy to resist?

He wasn’t bad looking, even Brad said he was good looking. He kept himself in shape, and he always made sure he smelled nice… But it wasn’t enough obviously, he thought despondently. Sighing, he ran a hand through his chestnut brown hair and threw his shirt into the laundry basket. As he met his own green-eyed gaze in the mirror he wondered if Brad had been right about those dreams. Was he simply dreaming up this beautiful guy to replace the man he could tell was slipping away from him?

Wow, that’s really pathetic, he thought, grimacing at his reflection. Yet, those dreams seemed so real – the man felt real, warm and hard bodied under Michael’s hands, his skin so smooth, his lips so soft, his kiss a sweet hunger…

Jesus… Michael stepped back from the mirror. He was hard as a rock. “Pull yourself together,” he muttered. The phone’s strident ring brought him back to reality. He picked up in the bedroom.

“Michael Ballantyne.”

“Mikey, how are you?”

Steve. He was the only one who called him Mikey, and got away with it. Michael hated that particular abbreviation, but from Steve he’d grin and bear it.

“Hey, it’s good to hear your voice.” Michael sat down heavily on the bed. “Where are you?”

“Still in Vancouver, but I’ll be back in a couple of days. Wanna get together?”

“That’d be great…” He paused then said quietly. “I miss you.”

“Yeah…miss you too, Mikey.”

“What are you doing?”

“Right now I’m lying in bed watching Canadian television. It’s even worse than the dreck they serve up in the States. What are you doing?”

“I just got home. Going to kick back and watch some dreck on TV too.” Michael had a vision of Steve lying on the hotel bed, his muscled, quarter-back physique stretched out in all its glory, his blond hair rumpled by the pillow. He was hard again.

“Well, you have a good evening,” Steve was saying. “I’ll call you when I get back.”

No, don’t hang up yet. Talk to me some more… “Oh, okay Steve. Look forward to seeing you when you get back.”

“Right… Take it easy, see ya, Mikey.” And he was gone.

“Damn,” Michael muttered, putting the phone down. Why couldn’t he have thought of something to keep Steve talking on the phone longer? Why hadn’t he told him about the call from England? Surely that would have intrigued him. His hand strayed to his crotch, gripping the hard flesh through his slacks. He lay back on the bed, but the face that swam before his closed eyes, wasn’t Steve’s…it was the man in his dreams.
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