Monday, June 28, 2010

Poisoned Ivy excerpt by Scot D Ryersson

Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, Autumn 1916. Crale, the ambitious Senator's son, Wynter, the talented artist and Marrok, the football prodigy. Their paths cross in strange and unexpected ways in Poisoned Ivy by Scot D Ryerson, the first book in the Vintage series published by Bristlecone Pine Press. Inspired by antique pictures and photographs, Vintage books celebrate historic same-sex male love stories told in unique and creative ways. Poisoned Ivy is full of haunting shadows and mysterious goings-on, set against the background of the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, its arcane secret societies, the college gridiron, and the artist's canvas. Green-eyed jealousy, blue-eyed ice, and amber-eyed fire all combine to create a delicious and mischievous tale that will leave you wanting more.

Title: Poisoned Ivy (Book One in the Vintage Series)
Publisher: Bristlecone Pine Press (June 17, 2010)
ISBN: 978-1-60722-020-6


Crale heard nothing of the shouts, the calls, the cheering, as he sat, stiff as stone, in the bleachers overlooking the playing field. His fingers were clenching and unclenching, his eyes concentrating all of his anger, all of his hatred, on the dark figure dashing down the gridiron in the direction of the opposing team’s end zone. The crowd applauded each yard line that that dark figure passed, rooting all the way, lost in a moment of glory for each touchdown, quite forgetting that this was nothing more than a practice match, and that the enemy was their own classmates. Bile rose at seeing the acclamation, the pats on the back that followed.

The carillon tolled twelve.

A few minutes later, Crale saw them—the trio crossing the grass. Beckford, immaculate in his blue blazer, starched shirtfront, and straw boater; Levritt scuttling after him, characteristically untidy, in hat and scarf, and…

Crale’s eyes kindled when he spotted the last member of the group.


They were chatting, Levritt laughing at all the right cues, the witty bon mots Beckford lobbed, Wynter looking less than thrilled at it all, as usual, until…

Crale watched as his beloved reduced the speed of his paces, watched how his beloved drew up at attention, watched how his beloved’s head tilted in that way it did when his awareness was focused on one thing and one thing alone, as if absorbing it through those sparkling eyes straight into his brain, straight into his bloodstream, straight into his soul.

And that one thing alone on which that awareness had been focused?

Clay Marrok.

Crale’s teeth ground.

It struck him just then that he had often seen his beloved so captivated—by an ancient Egyptian amulet, an archaic Greek vase, a Vermeer study, a Whistler etching, a Sargent canvas—by something as simple as the shade of blue in the sky in the morning or the fading splendor of a September sunset, but never—never—before had Crale ever seen his beloved so enraptured by a person. A Roman statue of one maybe, but a living, breathing person…never.

And moreover, he had never, ever seen his beloved stare at him like that.

Crale’s eyes slitted as his gaze followed the three friends. They made their way closer to the edge of the playing field, Wynter mesmerized all the way, shutting out the tumult surrounding him. Next, those resentful green eyes shifted to take in the object of such veneration, and he became perhaps the sole witness to the bizarre event that occurred right before them all.

As Wynter approached, Marrok’s dash slowed. He was more than three-quarters the way down the gridiron, hundreds of feet away, but still he slowed as the pallid young man drew nearer. He raised his head, his blond mane squashed flat under his helmet, leather “dog ear” ear protectors flapping, and then he thrust his nose up into the air, like a dog in search of a lost bone, like a starved wolf sniffing the breeze for an easy meal.

Crale seethed.

That bastard was smelling his beloved, actually breathing him in, pinpointing his exact location, and that’s when Marrok stopped completely, his great head turning, those amber eyes hunting through the mob, and then…

…then Marrok was taken down.

Four men the size of boxcars plowed into him, bringing him to the grass, pile-driving him into the dirt.

And Crale couldn’t have been happier.

There had to have been some broken bones, enough, one hoped, to end a career.

The crowd roared in horror and dissent, booing and hissing at the quartet who had caused their star to fall.

Crale’s gaze slid to his friends, seeing Beckford wince at the impact, seeing Levritt cringe and look away, seeing the sheer terror on his beloved’s face.

Crale had had enough.

The piercing shrillness of a whistle was heard as Crale stalked from the bleachers and across the green. On the field the four men who had toppled a king gained their feet, panting, while their coach moved in to inspect the damage. The audience could see by his expression that he was not at all hopeful and expecting the worst.

Marrok was down, unmoving.

Wynter was so engrossed in the fallen hero that he didn’t realize that Crale had drawn up to his side. That was, until he felt his arm wrenched and he was spun about forcibly.

“Well, well, well,” Crale spat. “Look who’s here! And I thought you hated organized sports.”

Wynter attempted to yank his arm free from its captor. “Let go! You’re hurting me!”

“Let him go,” Beckford whispered, bending close to Crale’s ear. “There are members of the Theoi Olympian here, and they’re watching…”

Crale’s fingers released from his victim and he took a step backward, trying to compose himself. He couldn’t let anything go wrong now, not when he was so close.

“What the hell is the matter with you?” Wynter confronted him, his outrage bitingly cold.

“I-I’m sorry,” Crale stammered, not knowing what else to say, fearful of those anonymous eyes’ surveillance.

Wynter shot Crale a bitter smile. “Was that apology for this or for what you did last night?”

Crale’s temper flared, but he swallowed it back, almost choking. “For both,” he muttered. “I’m sorry…for both…”

Wynter found himself the sudden center of scrutiny. Beckford, Levritt and Crale were staring, waiting for the expected lenience, all charges dropped. Wynter sighed.

“Apology accepted.”

Beckford gave Crale a sideways glance, one that clearly read, Nothing more, not here, not now. Crale nodded, eyes on the ground, inhaling and exhaling a few cleansing breaths, about to give thanks for the pardon. But when he looked back up, he saw that Wynter’s attention was once again on the playing field and the huddle standing over that kicked mongrel.

“We were just watching the gladiators spar.” Levritt spoke up. He shook his head sadly. “There goes our only hope of trouncing Harvard this season…”

Crale sidled up alongside Wynter, his voice low. “Why didn’t you tell me Marrok came to your room last night?”

“How could I? I haven’t seen you ’til right now.” Wynter answered without turning his head from the gridiron, his face blanching an even whiter shade of pale when seeing the stripe-shirted medics running out of the locker-room.

Crale glowered. Damn, he couldn’t argue with that.

“So,” Wynter went on, still choosing not to look at the young man next to him. “If I am forced to make a confession here, then, yes, forgive me Father for I have sinned. Marrok did come to my room last night, right in through the window, believe it or not—don’t ask me why, don’t ask me how. He apologized for not showing up earlier, saying that Camp had kept him late. We spent the next two hours together—he in front of the fireplace, me on the window seat, sketching him. All of the drawings were awful and I tore them up. He’s supposed to come again tonight at ten to pose…”

Wynter chose that moment to face his interrogator. “And as for his posing, he was fully clothed…so how many ‘Hail, Marys’ is that?”

Crale’s cheeks flushed a brilliant scarlet. Beckford’s eyes slipped shut, praying that no one else had been privy to the remark about Crale’s modeling in a state of undress, while Levritt’s eyes darted back and forth between the combatants, trying to make sense of it all, and when he did, they went wide and bore the distinct expression of a scandalized Connecticut matron. Beckford elbowed him, glaring. “Not a word,” he warned. Levritt nodded hastily and looked back to the fracas on the field.

But Wynter was not finished. “And just how, may I ask, did you know that Marrok was in my room last night? You were out getting pie-eyed.”

Crale shot Beckford a furious glance. Beckford raised both hands in surrender, shaking his head hurriedly, wordlessly declaring, Not me! I’d never tell! Headsman’s honor!

Wynter noticed this bit of silent communication, and let Beckford off the hook by saying, “Robbins told me this morning. You threw up right outside his window.” He turned to Beckford. “And please accept my gratitude, Florence Nightingale, for taking him in and sobering him up.” Wynter then spun, his back once again to the two older friends, his attention on the field.

“He’s something else,” Beckford noted in Crale’s ear. “You sure you want him?”

“He’s mine…” Crale said, possessively, and in such a way that warranted no argument.

At that instant a rousing cheer went up, deafening, drowning out whatever else Crale was going to add, and all eyes were on the prone shape just then getting to its feet. Marrok was rising, as if Lazarus from the dead, the medics shaking their heads, confused; the coach flabbergasted, the multitude praising the heavens above.

Crale fumed at the sight of divine resurrection. Beckford leaned in, playing Iago once more, whispering, “The second coming, my lord, and you thought him slain…”

“He’s a Spartan,” Levritt enthused. “I’ve never seen anything like him!”

It was Beckford’s turn to fume. “Steady, boy. Spartan, indeed! The Spartans were smart, they always tossed the puny and deformed ones into the chasm.”

Levritt revolved, his gaze hard, taking his friends by surprise with his sudden show of backbone. “You mean me, right?”

Beckford paled. “Of course not! I would never confer such a criticism on you, my dear man…never!”

“I know what you all think of me!” Levritt practically shouted. Luckily for them his voice was hard-pressed to be heard above the continuing jubilation. “Poor little Levritt…I can see my knighthood now—Levritt the Frail, Levritt the Timid…King Levritt the Fainthearted, lost in a world of fantasy, of ghosts and goblins, of devils and demons…”

With that declaration, Levritt flounced off.

Beckford let out a long sigh. “That time of the month again, I’m afraid. I do apologize. Let me see if I can pour oil on the waters, or lift the curse…” He nodded to Wynter, who nodded in reply. Then he inclined again toward Crale. “Tap Day can’t come soon enough,” he said softly and was gone, leaving Crale and his beloved in each other’s company.

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