Monday, July 12, 2010

Counterpoint: Dylan's Story excerpt by Ruth Sims

In Counterpoint: Dylan's Story by Ruth Sims, the setting is the romantic city of Paris. Dylan, in Paris to study music without his father’s knowledge, gets reacquainted with the teacher he had fallen head over heels in love with his last year at The Venerable Bede School for Young Gentlemen. His feelings had come as a shock to Laurence Northcliff, the teacher, who had left the school to pursue writing in Paris. No longer teacher and student, they both decide there’s no hindrance to being friends. Of course Dylan has more in mind that being friends. All he has to do is work a scheme to get his way.

Counterpoint: Dylan's Story
Dreamspinner Press (July 12, 2010)


Dylan’s life settled into a pleasant, productive routine. Mondays and Fridays, he went to Naszados. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, he worked alone, concentrating on his music until his head pounded. Rob, though still as mystified as ever by Dylan’s devotion to his dream, persuaded the hotel manager to grant Dylan the use of the ballroom piano. Dylan told himself that Rob was a good friend and he didn’t appreciate him nearly enough.

Friday nights and Saturdays, Dylan and Laurence attended a play, opera, symphony, ballet, or sometimes just joined an informal gathering of Laurence’s friends. He knew an astonishing number of people of all kinds: rich and poor, painters, musicians, shop girls, poets and barbers, and people without identifiable occupations or discernable morals. Without exception they had great affection and respect for Laurence. Dylan gradually became at ease among them, and though he liked Madame Daumier well enough, he wished she were not present nearly everywhere they went. He knew his first impression had been right: Ivy Daumier was in love with Laurence.

So was a woman who lived at 58 Rue de Savies. She was a plain woman, with a loud, coarse voice, a demimondaine, as Laurence delicately put it. Laurence treated her with the same kindness he treated everyone. The woman, Josephine Marie, brought well-meant but inedible cakes to Laurence every Saturday and looked accusingly at Dylan whenever she found him there.

On sunny Sundays, he and Laurence went to the Bois de Boulogne, where they rented horses and enjoyed the miles of bridle paths. Rather, Laurence enjoyed them and Dylan faked enthusiasm; Dylan and horses had never been on good terms and it was damnably difficult to maintain one’s dignity when one’s arse felt as if it had been beaten raw and one’s thighs had turned to quivering gelatin.

Dylan thought often of Laurence’s statement that their new status was “not very” like the old days. There seemed to be only one thing they never talked about; with every hour they spent together, Dylan became more determined that they would talk about it. And he intended to do more than talk. They went one night to see Lucia di Lammermoor, and the tragic beauty of the acting and the music left a residue of emotion.

In the gig, in the darkness, Dylan put one hand on Laurence’s knee, crossed the fingers of his other hand, and said, “I have to tell you something. Will you promise to listen?” Laurence said he would. Dylan’s heart pounded as he blurted, “You said yourself I’m not your student anymore. I’m a grown man and I know what I want from life. I know what I want from you. I’m not putting it very well, but… damn it all, do you know what I’m trying to say?”

“Yes.” Laurence’s voice was low, calm, serious.

Dylan moved closer on the seat, until he felt the heat of Laurence’s thigh against his own. “What is it about you that makes me persist in making a fool of myself?”

There was the hint of amusement in Laurence’s voice. “Dear boy, you don’t need my help to make a fool of yourself. You’re more than capable of doing it all alone.”

“I think you just insulted me,” Dylan said. “But I forgive you.” The horse turned its ears toward their soft laughter. “I want to go to bed with you. Tonight. Now.”

Laurence looked at him. There was enough moonlight edging through the clouds that Dylan could see the shadowed hollows of his eye sockets and the silvered planes of his face. “Yes,” Laurence said.

“Just like that?” Dylan was dumfounded. He had been prepared to argue, seduce, or coax, whatever he had to do. “Just… like that?” he repeated and heard the surprise in his voice. Laurence uttered a shout of laughter and slapped the reins against the horse’s rump. The nag picked up the pace. It took only a few minutes to reach the narrow street, only a few more minutes to return the horse and gig to the livery stable and walk the short distance to the house, but it seemed like a very long time to Dylan.

Inside the parlor, with the only light being that of the flickering street lamp just outside the window, Laurence turned to him. “I’ve wanted it, too. Ever since you kissed me at Bede.”

“Mr. Northcliff, Sir, you are just full of surprises! You could have let me know a bit sooner.” This time the kiss was deep and hard and demanding. Not until that instant did it occur to Dylan that he had never kissed anyone but Laurence. He never wanted to stop.

Laurence stumbled backward against the door, pulling Dylan with him, their mouths still together until they broke apart, gasping for air. “Dylan, I don’t—I don’t have much—experience. The truth is, my love… I know about as much as a turnip.”

Dylan looked deep into the blue eyes he had dreamed about; in the semi-darkness, with wide pupils, they looked black. My love. Emotion shook him as Laurence touched his face with trembling fingertips. My love. Love. So this was what love felt like—being willing to die for just one more touch, being willing to wait for the rest if needs be. This was not Rob, ready at all times for mindless shagging that would be over and forgotten in minutes. Dylan held Laurence’s palm against his lips and said against the soft flesh, “Then I must play at being teacher.”
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1 comment:

Victor J. Banis said...

Well, anybody who read my review on Jessewave's blog knows, I love this book. It is a real charmer.