Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Lure of Port Stephen Blog Tour

Blurb:
Robbie Wales is young and starting a new job in a new town, on his own. Coming from a split family, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents and came out as a teen without a lot of fuss, but his father, whom he only saw infrequently, has never known. As an adult, he's found he's got a lot in common with his father, and they're finally getting to know each other. He fears coming out to his father may jeopardize that.

Then he meets Raj Williams, the attractive man in the trailer next to his father's in a seasonal RV park. Raj is handsome, sophisticated, yet loves to fish and watch silly Disney movies.

Raj finds Robbie equally interesting. But Robbie's still in the closet, at least in Port Stephen, and Raj's ex used that as an excuse to treat him as nothing more than a friend with benefits. He's not interested in a repeat experience.

Robbie finally finds the courage to come out to his father, but was it all just for a summer fling?


Add to Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35015406-the-lure-of-port-stephen


Excerpt:
Sydney Blackburn © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Robbie Wales rented a car Saturday morning to go down to his father’s trailer in Port Stephen. Alone—because he’d just moved to St. Albans and hadn’t had the opportunity to meet someone. Like Dad and Wanda had been nagging him about.

It would help if he could actually tell them the someone he hoped to meet was a guy. His mother knew, of course. But his parents had split when he was a baby, and he hadn’t spent more than a couple weeks a year with his father until he’d moved to Woodstock for his apprenticeship training. He’d never had a boyfriend serious enough to mention. Coming out seemed too important not to do in person, but the right time never seemed to come up.

He had to come out to them soon—he was twenty-two, and the more time he spent with them, the more obvious it would be—but he was worried. What if his father rejected him just when they were finally having a real relationship? But—new job, new apartment, new city—it was time.

St. Albans was only a twenty-minute drive away from the port. He could, in theory, hang out and fish during the day and go back to town at night. It wasn’t that he didn’t like sitting around their firepit, but listening to a bunch of people his parents’ age or older wasn’t his idea of a fun time. They wouldn’t miss him.

He pulled in beside the end of his parents’ trailer, leaving room for other vehicles in case the people in the small Prowler next door had friends coming up for the weekend too. Robbie grabbed his duffel and used the keys his father had given him last year to let himself in. The water and electric were already on, and the fridge was humming softly.

He dropped the duffel and went out to retrieve the case of beer he’d brought. Hard liquor would take up less fridge space, he mused. Too bad it made him stupid. He gave the neighbouring trailer a sidelong glance. Small propane grill, decorative urns spilling jewel-tone flowers, sun shelter, and a couple of fishing rods. Retired couple, he decided. Flowers had to be a woman’s touch.

Movement on one of the boats caught his eye, and he turned just in time to see a man—literally tall, dark, and handsome—strip his T-shirt off. There was nothing erotic in the motion—guy probably didn’t even know he was being watched—but Robbie’s mouth watered all the same at the unexpected vision.

He was lean, deeply tanned, and wearing shorts that were short enough to make Robbie wish they were even shorter. Nice legs. Nice everything.

As if sensing Robbie’s stare, the guy turned his head. Robbie blushed, glad he was too far away for it to be seen, and hurried to bring in the beer. That was a sight he’d never seen here before. Was he the son of the couple in the trailer?

One way to find out. Randomly chatting to strangers was a thing here, giving Robbie an excuse. He stuck six beers in the fridge and took two of his father’s, already cold, and hastily checked his look in the mirror. His sandy-brown hair was tousled from the drive, but there were no stains on his tank or rainbow-coloured board shorts. Good. Normal. He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes and almost forgot the beer on his way out the door.

Walking along the waterfront, he tried to appear nonchalant, though he’d never been 100 percent certain of what that meant. As he strode out onto the dock, the guy raised his head. He looked even better up close. His hair was thick, dark, begging to be ruffled… Try not to drool, Rob. He didn’t have the words to describe the guy’s mouth—full lips he’d love to kiss, a pinkish-brown colour a little lighter than his nipples. Dark hair scattered across a gorgeous dark tan. Robbie licked his lips before he realized what he was doing.

Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome’s kissable lips pulled up into a smile, and long fingers with very pale fingernails shoved the sunglasses up over his hair. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Robbie handed him a beer. “You looked thirsty. Boat trouble?” he added quickly, squatting down to eye level. Tall, Dark, and Handsome had eyelashes like a woman’s—long, feathery, soft. And his eyes were amber, a little darker than the beer he’d accepted from Robbie.

“Thanks.” He pushed a hand behind his ear, and Robbie’s tongue slipped out to swipe his lower lip again.

The handsome stranger twisted the cap off the beer and tipped the bottle to his mouth, his long throat working as he swallowed once, twice.

Robbie let his gaze slide down the deeply tanned bare chest in front of him. Gay men, in his admittedly limited experience, tended to wax their chests. Trying to match the guys on billboards and magazines, he supposed. Handsome here had a sparse triangle of dark hair from below his collarbone across pecs with more definition than he’d initially thought. Gravity pulled a trickle of sweat down the narrow bit of hair in the center of his torso, one that disappeared… Robbie forced himself to not stare as if the guy was the first steak dinner he’d seen after months of bread and water.

Tall, Dark, and Handsome was glaring at the cables he’d uncovered that led to his motor. “It pulls to the left.”

pulled his shades down, hiding his eyes. “You know much about boats? You’d think I’d learn, owning one, but goddammit, I had it in for a thorough check in St. Albans before I put it in the water.”

“I know a little more about outboards than inboards,” Robbie said truthfully, “but I’d be happy to take a look.”

TDH waved vaguely toward the open panel. “Sure. Please.”

Robbie’s heart tripped a little at getting so close to his new fantasy man, and he nearly lost his balance getting into the boat—to his embarrassment. TDH’s steadying hand was hot and dry, and Robbie nearly jumped as his cock twitched.

“Fuck,” he said, before he could stop himself. His voice was hoarse, but he hoped TDH would think he was cursing his clumsiness and not his riotous imagination.

The smile on his face seemed sly and suggestive to Robbie, but he figured that was wishful thinking on his part. He smiled back and took a swig of his beer. Down, boy, he told his overeager cock. He set his bottle in a holder and turned around, kneeling to examine the innards exposed.

“Huh. Interesting,” he said, having no idea what he was looking for.

“Isn’t it, though.”

His voice was like a caress. You’re imagining things, Robert Eliot Wales. He leaned back to sit on his ass and reached up for his beer. He froze momentarily as TDH sat on one of the pedestal seats. He could almost—but not quite—see up the leg of his shorts. Stop looking.

He forced himself to raise his gaze all the way to the other man’s face. “Tell me exactly what it’s doing?”

“When I put it under full throttle, it pulls to the left. I don’t notice it on the creek, but out on the lake this morning, it pulled so hard it almost yanked the wheel out of my hands.” He ran a hand through his hair again.

Robbie knew he was staring, but he hoped it wasn’t too obvious behind his shades.

“First time I’ve been scared on the water.”

“Sounds like your trim is out of whack. Maybe you bumped something in the creek?”

“Maybe,” he said. “It seems rather shallow this year. So I have to take it out of the water?”

“Yeah, I think so. When my dad gets here, he’ll take a look. He knows a lot more…” Geez, he sounded like a teenager. “Robbie Wales,” he said, thrusting out a hand, more dirty now than it had been twenty minutes ago.

“Raj Williams,” he said, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet.

Raj. That explained the great tan. Even if he still had tan lines, his bare ass was probably a gorgeous honey gold…. He shook his head. “That’s my dad’s trailer.” Robbie jerked his head. “The Golden Falcon there.”

TDH—Raj—laughed. “Tell me that’s not your dad’s name.”

“What?”

“Wayne and Wanda Wales of Woodstock.” He snickered. “Say it ain’t so.”

Robbie chuckled at the awful alliteration. “It ain’t so,” he reassured him. “Wales is my mother’s name. Dad’s is Richardson. And Wanda kept her own name, Nichols. I take it you’ve met.”

“Neighbours. Your dad is very…sociable.”

“They say in Woodstock, if you don’t know Wayne Richardson, it’s not Wayne Richardson’s fault.”

“I can believe that.”

Neighbours. So… “Which trailer’s yours?”

“This one,” he said with a pleased nod toward the Prowler. “My company started a work-from-home initiative, and I talked them into paying for my Internet to work from here, instead.”

Ah. Straight and married then. Robbie nodded, trying not to show his disappointment. “Where is home when it’s not Port Stephen?”

“Toronto.”

Robbie felt his eyes widen. “My god, you must feel like you’re in redneck country.”

Raj laughed again, a warm, rich sound that Robbie liked very much. “Kind of,” he said. “Let’s go sit in the shade. My deck’s a little iffy; carpentry isn’t my forte. Along with boat mechanics,” he added ruefully. “I can refresh your beer.”

Eh, he could still fantasize, as long as he didn’t have to watch TDH kissing his no-doubt-pretty wife. “Sure. Thanks.”

The deck, which looked like freight pallets bound together, had an outdoor rug on it and two director-style chairs. Solar LED lights were strung across the canopy. The flowers in each corner were bright primary colours, so intense they almost seemed fake. Nestled against the trailer was an electric cooler. Robbie watched those shorts get a little shorter and tighter as Raj leaned over to grab two cold bottles. To his horror, a whimper came out of his throat before he could stop it.

He cleared his throat and spun to examine one of the flowerpots. “Nice flowers.”

“Thanks. My apartment is tiny without much in the way of a balcony. But I’ve always admired those perfectly landscaped little houses on the magazine covers. Clearly, I’m not a landscaper or a designer either, but it makes me happy—those ridiculously bright flowers.”

“Oh. So you’re not married?”

Raj smiled at him, an expression that seemed full of hidden meaning. “Haven’t met the right person yet. And you? Will you be bringing someone special down to share romantic evenings on the beach?”

Robbie blushed. “No.” He’d never put Port Stephen and romantic together in his head. “So, why here?”

“The fishing. And I can have this place for five months for the same price a month’s rent would cost me in Toronto.”

Robbie opened his mouth to ask another question but frowned. “You’re not paying rent in Toronto? Are you moving here, like, permanently?”

“Hell, no. Can you imagine going all the way to Bayham just for groceries every week in the winter? Do they even have a bar that doesn’t serve a Sunday brunch?” Raj laughed.

Robbie hadn’t realized before now sound could be a thing one wanted to roll in—or lick up.

“Don’t think so,” he managed to say.

“I sublet my apartment for the season, so until October first, it’s not actually mine. I still have a place to live at the end of the season but don’t have to pay the rent. I love it here”—he gestured toward his boat, or perhaps just the water in general—“but it would be nice to meet some people under forty and over twenty.”

Robbie opened his mouth to invite Raj along with him to St. Albans some night. “You met me.” He hadn’t meant to say that, but for some reason the idea of Raj meeting someone other than him made his stomach twist.

Raj smiled. “True…”


Purchase Links
NineStar Press    |    Amazon    |    Barnes & Noble    |    Kobo    |    Smashwords



 Raj and Robbie’s Facebook Pages

The nice thing about writing contemporary romances is the ability to fake up some nice social media posts for them. If Raj had a Facebook page, it might look like this... 



...yes, that is the long awaited photo of the Sandcastle restaurant! 

Now that we've seen Raj's FB, what about Robbie's?  Robbie's Facebook page is a little more fishing oriented.




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Tour Schedule
5/25 - Sharing Links and Wisdom


About the Author:
Sydney Blackburn is a binary star system. Always a voracious reader, she began to write when she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read. She likes candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach… Oh wait, wrong profile. She’s a snarky introvert and admits to having a past full of casual sex and dubious hookups, which she uses for her stories.

She likes word play and puns and science-y things. And green curry.

Her dislikes include talking on the phone, people trying to talk to her before she’s had coffee, and filling out the “about me” fields in social media.

Besides writing, she also designs book covers for poor people.

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

Monday, May 22, 2017

Evergreen VBT

Blurb:
Thirty-year-old musician Leilani Mahuiki is in Tennessee to find Joe Barstow, the birth father whose bone marrow might save her daughter’s life. She finds Bradley, too, Joe’s adopted son. Against all odds, she and Bradley make wonderful music together, she on the ukulele, he on the banjo. And Bradley is everything else she’s ever wanted in a man.

Bradley wants her, too. But is that enough? He needs a family of his own. Having grown up an outsider, he’s always dreamt of something simple and old-fashioned. No entanglements. No complications. Just mom, dad, and the kids. Not something Leilani can ever offer. She already has the very complications and entanglements that he so desperately wants to avoid, and that are not going away any time soon. And yet, as he and Leilani pull out all the stops to save her daughter’s life, he knows Leilani is the only woman for him. The most beautiful music in the world can sometimes happen when disharmony resolves—and a lonely Tennessee winter can become a tropical paradise.


Excerpt:
“I see.” Bradley thought a minute. “It’s a good deal for them and a good deal for Nalani. But is it really all that good a deal for you? What’s this done to your life, Leilani?”

“My child has three parents raising her and I have an incredible support system in George and Kekoa. And they have an incredible support system in me.”

“But what about the possibility of your ever finding love again? What has this cockamamie arrangement done to that?”

Leilani felt herself bristle. “It’s not cockamamie. It’s working well, thank you very much.”

“If it’s working out so damned well, why are you still single? Is it because your boyfriends are put off by the total and complete weirdness of whole thing?”

Leilani looked at Bradley with disdain. “Actually, this is the first time I’ve given a damn what my boyfriend thought of my totally, completely weird life. This is the first time since Bruce died that I’ve really cared about a man.”

“I didn’t realize.”

“You did, too. I told you a while back that I haven’t been serious about anyone since Bruce died. Congratulations. You’re the first one in ten years. The first damn man I’ve cared about since I put Bruce in the ground. You want to know why I didn’t tell you about Kekoa and George? Because even though I tried to warn you that I couldn’t give you the fifties sitcom family of your dreams, I thought way down deep that maybe you could get past that unrealistic dream a little and look at my admittedly unconventional family and visualize yourself a part of it. I thought that maybe, just maybe, you might come to love me enough to loosen the tight parameters you’ve set up in your mind and think outside that box. But that was damned stupid of me, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was,” Bradley said with a snap. “You’ve known from the beginning how I feel and what I want in a family. Unrealistic or no, that’s what I’m looking for. As much as I care about you, I’ll never be able to have that with you. You will always have other loyalties, other allegiances. It will never be just me and mine. I understand that now. I just wish you’d told me earlier. Maybe I wouldn’t have fallen for you the way I did. Maybe I wouldn’t hurt so much tonight.”

“Or maybe you wouldn’t hurt so much if your mind was a little broader,” Leilani snapped.



Setting my Books in a Place I Love
Okay, so this is not exactly a new concept.  Every writer from James Michener to Nora Roberts has used his or her favorite place to tell their stories.  An author is more likely to weave a compelling tale if she already feels a deep emotional connection to the surroundings where she places her characters, and in the hands of a skilled author these settings become more than a backdrop-they actually become part of the story, adding richness and authenticity that all the armchair research in the world cannot duplicate.  So when it came time to leave my beloved Texas Hill Country and move on, I turn to another place I love-the mountains of Appalachia, featured in the Smoky Blue series.

I made my first trip to Eastern Tennessee in 2009 when my son and his family moved there, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with everything about the Appalachians.  The smoke-enshrouded mountains themselves are majestic-green, covered with tall trees and dotted with farmhouses and barns with quilt patterns painted on the side.  The towns are clean and quaint, with houses built into the sides of hills and downtowns reminiscent of days gone by.  But it wasn’t just the mountains themselves that enchanted me so.  It was the people of the region.  Warm, friendly-I don’t think any of them ever met a stranger, and everybody called me ‘honey’ and asked how my day was going.  I fell in love with the region, and nothing I’ve learned on my many return trips to Appalachia has made me change my mind. 

I also fell in love with the music of the region.  I bought my first mountain dulcimer in Pigeon Forge in 2012.  The vendor gave me a brief demonstration and with my musical background it wasn’t hard to learn.  The mountain dulcimer has the distinction of being the only instrument developed in the continental United States, made in Appalachia by the mountain people and used to play the lilting Celtic tunes and ballads they brought with them from England and Scotland and that are still played by the mountain people today.  I fell in love with the old-time mountain music and the bluegrass music that grew from it, so when I was creating characters in these new stories, they became mountain musicians.  My heroines play the various instruments used in mountain music-the dulcimer, the fiddle, the banjo-as do my heroes.  Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia bills itself as the ‘Birthplace of Country Music’ and the region is a hotbed of bluegrass and mountain music, with venues all along the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina.  It was logical and natural that Bristol became the home of Acoustics, the fictional bluegrass nightclub around which the stories take place.

So where did Leilani Mahuiki, a Hawaiian ukulele player come from?  From Hawaii, of course!  I made my first trip to Hawaii in 2013, and yes, fell in love with Hawaii and its signature instrument.  I bought my first ukulele on that trip and learned to play it.  To my surprise, some component of the ukulele was featured at every dulcimer festival we attended, and I began playing ukulele as a backup with a dulcimer band.  This encouraged me to introduce a Hawaiian ukulele player to my fictional band of musicians-if the ukulele sounded great with mountain music for real, it would sound great in my story.  It was fun watching my characters Leilani and Bradley blend the two sounds and two cultures as they fell in love.

So where to next?  Nowhere for the time being!  The next book in the series, ‘Indigo’, is in editing and I have four more Smoky Blue books plotted ready to go.  But at some point, it will be time to move on.  Where, I’m not sure.  Hawaii?  New Orleans?  Back to Texas?  I don’t know just yet.  But wherever my stories go next, you can bet it will be to another place in this world that I love.


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Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.


Author Bio and Links:
Author of thirty romance novels, Emily Mims combined her writing career with a career in public education until leaving the classroom to write full time.  The mother of two sons and grandmother of six, she and her husband Charles live in central Texas but frequently visit grandchildren in eastern Tennessee and Georgia.  She plays the piano, organ, dulcimer, and ukulele and belongs to two performing bands.  She says, “I love to write romances because I believe in them.  Romance happened to me and it can happen to any woman-if she’ll just let it.” 

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

Amazon Buy Link

Drama Queens and Adult Themes Tour

Blurb:
Adam’s about to discover how much drama a mid-life crisis can be. He’s obsessed with Mannix, the nude model in his art class. But Adam has been married to Wade for nearly two decades, and they don’t have an open relationship.

Little do they know that Fabien, a warlock from the Afterlife, has secretly cast a spell of lust on Adam and his potential toy-boy.

As things begin to heat up, Adam’s guardian angel, Guy, steps in. But what’s the best way to save the relationship? Should Guy subdue Adam’s wandering passions or instigate a steamy threesome?



Excerpt:
Kevin Klehr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Adam

He stood wearing a velvety white towel and an eager grin. Either could’ve disappeared at my whim. I smelled the freshly laundered lemon scent of the towel combined with the odor of his body sweat, which I was dying to lick from his forehead. I’m always a sucker for a devil-may-care attitude. It makes me weak at the knees in an instant, but in this case, I was already reclined in my gleaming white tub, so there was no danger of losing my balance. The water filled to the brim, and I knew that when he joined me, he would splash the tiles below.

I’d only known him for half an hour, and already I was under his spell. Was he a young man of style, or was he a man of simple tastes? Did he have a daytime career that gave him the world at his fingertips, or did he simply have the freedom of freelance engagements?

Time slowed as his luxurious towel fell to the floor. His body was not toned like a swimwear model. His features would never inspire a dozen wet dreams. It was his everyday physical qualities that were driving me wild. That tuft of silky chest hair that traced its way to his belly button. He even had a little flab. Not too much, just a tad. To me, it signaled a man of zero pretense.

But as the towel was now on the floor, his upper body wasn’t what I was focusing on. He lifted one leg and eased himself into the water. The other leg followed as instinct lured my face toward his luscious…

“At some point, Adam, you do need to put pencil to paper,” said my art teacher. He had crept up behind me.

My wayward daydream vanished. Hopefully, I’d find it again before bedtime. I blushed and so did the nude model. I quickly drew a line, but it wasn’t in keeping with the young man’s form.

I was startled at my own behavior. A man of my age wasn’t supposed to act like a starstruck teenager. My instructor gently gripped my hand and guided my pencil to create a more natural line.

The model winked at me as some of the other students chuckled. Another budding male artist with bleached-blond hair nodded in my direction, smiling slyly.

“Okay, I admit it. My mind was somewhere else, and I apologize to the model,” I said.

All eyes in the room were on me.

“I’m flattered,” the model replied.

“It’s not like me to act like this, seriously.”

“Can I get you a glass of water?” asked the teacher.

“Thanks but I’ll get one myself. I think I need a walk. I’ll catch up on my drawing as soon as I get back.”

I rushed out of the classroom. This was all too weird in my situation. I was in my early forties and still madly in love with the man I’d shared my life with for the last eighteen years. We had a healthy sex life, even though I fantasized more than I’d like to admit. In fact, any dreamy man wandering past my view would arouse my animal instincts faster than a straight guy in a room of lipstick lesbians. But this young man posing for art class had my tongue dragging so close to the floor I was licking it clean. I was definitely not ready for a midlife crisis, or so I thought.

I sat on a seat in the corridor. Was I capable of having a discreet fling? I lightly slapped myself on the cheek, waking up to how ridiculous this question was. Why would he want to have an affair with an old fart like me?

It was the middle of winter, and I could already feel chilled air on the tip of my nose. I stood up and headed for the bathroom. I splashed warm water on my face. I stared at the mirror, giving my reflection some sound advice.

“Adam, get a grip. You don’t know this guy, but suddenly he’s invaded your thoughts. Yes, I know he looks really cute up there with nothing but that devilish grin and a pair of turquoise socks, but come on now, he can’t be more than thirty!”

“Seems like you’re smitten,” alleged the bleached-blond student.

He had wandered through the door and was heading for the urinal.

“Were you standing outside long?”

“I heard you down the corridor. Nothing to be ashamed of, really. This is my fourth class, and I’ve had to draw that same model once before. He hasn’t got the perfect body, but boy has he got the perfect attitude. Alluring, and if there is a god, available.”

The blond zipped up his fly and wandered to the sink next to me.

“I agree, but I usually don’t go around acting like a schoolgirl with a crush.”

“Enjoy it. Not all their models have that much charisma.”

We escorted each other back to art class where the other students had made headway on their drawings. I focused on the model’s socks in an attempt to concentrate on my artwork, rather than the young man’s prominent feature. Soon the ankles were added before my pencil carefully outlined his masculine legs.

As I traced up to the hip, I sighed as I studied his most manly asset. How should I draw it? Would the teacher fail me if I portrayed it erect? After all, a great artist should display his own feelings on the sketchpad.

I decided to skip his crotch and draw his chest. His slightly defined chest. Not too developed, but not devoid of shape either. The small tuft of dark hair in the center of the upper body was outlined with great care. Outlining shape was one thing, but defining the type of chest hair someone had was another. A trail of thick small lines was carefully added to the picture from the torso to the navel.

“Okay folks, pencils down.”

The teacher wandered around the room giving us feedback. The charming model reached for a pair of frayed blue jeans, which were neatly folded over the back of a chair just an arm’s length away. He pulled them up and carefully buttoned the fly around his naked assets, as he clearly hadn’t brought underwear.

“We’ll have him back in a couple of weeks if you want to complete this particular drawing,” said the teacher.

He gave me a cheeky look.

“How far did you get?” asked the model.

He grabbed his dusty-pink T-shirt and snuggled into it tightly.

“Not as far as I would have liked,” I replied.

“Let’s see.”

He strolled over to my unfinished work. I was anxious by the thought of only a patch of denim between me and the model’s private bulge. I concentrated on my artwork and tried not to let the man’s proximity lead me to more wicked thoughts. Who was I kidding?

I had to divert my attention to our teacher instead, who was heading my way. He was a funky, retired chap. Black thick-rimmed glasses, peppered hair, and beard with a gentle face. The kind of man who’d take long walks with his wife in the park and watch Sunday arts programs on television.

“For the short amount of time you spent on this, you did pretty well for a newcomer,” he said. “But what are these strange lines to his side?”

“Um, I had this desire to add wings to my subject.”

“Wings?”

“I know it’s odd, but you did say at the beginning of class not to be constrained by what we see, and that we all see characteristics differently.”

“Yeah, but wings? Are you picturing our model as some kind of angel?”

“Why not? I’m seeing caring characteristics.”

The young man gave me a saintly smile. The teacher stroked his chin before pointing to the socks I’d drawn.

“Are my ankles really that shape?” the model asked.

He bent over to take a closer look. I wanted to bury my tongue in the nape of his neck and lick off any imaginary sweat.

“Yes, that’s the shape of your ankles,” the instructor replied. He gestured toward a student near the window. “Ian over there did a better job on your ankles, but Adam really did well on your socks. The way the shape of the feet peep through the cotton is not something I expect from a first-timer.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “I used to do a little sketch work last year but only amateur stuff. Still life from things around the house. A clock, fruit, dirty laundry, that sort of thing.”

“Bring in your drawings next week. I’d like to see them.” He spoke up to address the class. “Now let’s check out Ian’s work, and Carla’s. Ian knows his ankles, and Carla’s good with faces.”

We walked over to look at Ian’s sketch as the other students followed. Ian’s careful study of the model’s feet almost made them look bare. Carla captured the man’s cheeky smirk skillfully, making that feature alone the highlight of her image. The budding blond artist did his best work with the chest and hips, although they were considerably more masculine than they needed to be.
We all made the rounds, admiring and commenting on the other artworks before ending back at my attempt. There were unanimous compliments about the socks, sparking the suspicion that I must have a foot fetish. Like anyone, I had my kinks, but sucking toes was not one of them. There’s something about a tinea marinade that just doesn’t float my boat.

“You know, Adam, maybe you’re onto something with the angel wings,” said Carla. “I would have put a wry smile and devil horns on him, just because I think he’s cheeky. But you see him as virtuous.”

“Divine, maybe, but not virtuous,” I replied.

Everyone strolled back to their easels to pack away their portraits except for the appealing model. He stayed to chat. He even helped me roll up the drawing as I studied the way his skillful hands worked with a cylindrical object.

“I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks if you want to finish the picture. They use me at least once a month.”

“Getting naked doesn’t bother you?”

“I have open-minded parents. They used to take me to nudist beaches when I was a kid.”

“Only child?”

“Only child.”

“Spoiled?”

“A bit. Still am, I suppose, even living away from home. Mum’s always dropping off baked dinners or cookies for me and my flatmate. You’d think we can’t fend for ourselves.”

“I’m Adam,” I said.

I raised my hand, and he shook it firmly.

“Mannix. Please don’t ask what my parents were thinking when they came up with that name. On marijuana or something.”

“I like it.”

“I want to change it, eventually.”

“What to?”

“At this stage, I haven’t a clue.”

“Keep it. It sounds like the name of a secret agent.”

“Yeah, a pretty lame one at that.”

Mannix handed me my picture as I beamed at him, probably resembling a lonely bachelor with a crush on an enigmatic porn star.

“I’m honored you were taken with the subject matter,” he teased.

“Between you and me, Mannix, that’s never happened to me before. I’m sorry if I was staring.”

“Not blowing my own trumpet or anything, but Adam, you wouldn’t be the first.” He winked, which kind of made me feel embarrassed. “Do you need a lift somewhere?”

“It’s okay. I have my car.”

Instantly, I regretted this admission of car ownership. Could I grab those words from the air and stuff them back in my mouth? My beautiful partner, Wade, was not going to be home for at least another hour and a half, and maybe, just maybe? I snapped back from my adolescent thoughts and sighed.

“Do you want a nightcap before going home?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied with the zeal of a henpecked man about to get a lap dance. “I mean, sure. That’s a good idea. Whatever you want. Drink. Good suggestion.”

“Is that bar on Clarence Street on your way home?”

“As a matter of fact, it is.”

It was actually in the opposite direction.

“Looks like we’ve got a date.”

He walked ahead of me before helping get my pencils and my sketch onto the passenger seat of my car. It was a ten-year-old modest two-door hatch, which Wade and I had bought secondhand. We both used to drive it before my partner fell in love with a flashier sedan he’d found at a dealership.

I thanked Mannix as he walked to the opposite row of vehicles parked at the neighborhood center. The beep of the automatic lock made a sporty little mini double blink its headlights.

The young man eased into his understated luxury car with unassuming confidence. I was a sucker for material items I couldn’t afford, especially this type of tasteful indulgence. Mannix teased his engine before letting his vehicle make its way out of the car park.

I sat there for a minute or two, wondering if I was doing the right thing. After all, I was only going for a drink. Wasn’t I? Guilt was rising through my body. I could see Mannix climbing over me into that imaginary bathtub again. His basket of goodies inviting this old wolf to sample.

I turned the key and started my engine. As I made my way to the street, my thoughts alternated between Technicolor adultery and refined G-rated friendship. Did Mannix have an ulterior motive, or was I full of wishful thinking? It wouldn’t be hard to hide this fling from Wade, even if we just decided to meet up on another night when I was supposed to be at art class.
No, bugger it. Why wait? There was a bathtub waiting at home, and Wade was at his salsa lesson and wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. The tub would be filled to the brim, a bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a Northern soul compilation drifting in from the lounge room.

But then, I wondered what would happen if Wade’s dancing partner, Tim, didn’t need a lift home. He’d be home early. How would I have explained my need to bathe? Perhaps the other students attacked me with their charcoal crayons. Maybe the teacher hated my work so much that I was berated to the point of needing to soak up the tension.

I pictured Mannix on our sofa when Wade came home. I would try several coded words to let my husband know that a threesome was on my mind.
But this wasn’t our style. We didn’t invite costars to our bed. In fact, like most long-term couples we went through phases of being either solely devoted or acting more like two confident individuals. In recent months, we’d behaved like old souls who knew we couldn’t live without each other. We’d hold each other before we fell into slumber and awake needing to possess each other again. But it might have been fun to share that experience with Mannix.

I pulled up in front of the pub, still reeling from my own errant imagination. I took one deep breath to jolt myself back to reality. It didn’t really work. My sense of guilt magnified while I pictured that bathtub again and Mannix’s soft lips cruising toward my own.

“Adam, are you okay?”

My gaze darted to the person who was knocking on the windscreen. It was Mannix, curious to why I was taking so long to get out of my car.

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About the Author:
Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.

His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.

So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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