Incorrigible

Hiya,

Incorrigible by name… It mayhaps blew up Kindle Create yesterday. Just a tad. In a start-again-from-scratch sort o’way. On Ch 17 of 25. 😳🙄😳

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amazon uk

Anyhoo…’tis up. At last…and I still have a plot, sort of, which is better yet. I’m not so sure the same can be said for Incorrigible, but, um…the trilogy is all done ‘n’ dusted. Bar the battle with KC to fandangle all three books into one. 😲 That’s sure to go well. Yup. No doubt about it. Tralala… 🙈🙉🙊

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Guest: Strokes on a Canvas by H. Lewis-Foster

Hiya,

If my guest posts seem a smidge random, they’re all releases/promotions that make me snuffle the air upon espying them. In a cherry pie sort o’way. 😳

❤Today’s gem: Strokes on a Canvas by H. Lewis-Foster ❤

 

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Book Title: Strokes on a Canvas

Author: H. Lewis-Foster

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Cover Artist: Cherith Vaughan

Genre/s: Historical M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3-4 flames

Trope/s: Friends to lovers

Themes: Overcoming the past

Length: 29,060 words/114 pages

It is a standalone book.

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Excerpt

On the opposite side of the cabinet, a man was gazing intently at the Athenian amphora. Evan doubted he was having the same thoughts as himself as he scrutinized the naked athletes, but he seemed transfixed by its sporting design. The dark-haired man was wearing a brown pinstripe suit, the kind seen in newspaper photographs of famous actors and royalty, which Evan could never hope to afford. The stranger looked born to wear his stylish attire, his confident posture showing the suit’s fine cut to full advantage. Then he raised his eyes, and Evan saw the man was not a total stranger. His hair was smooth with Brilliantine, and he wasn’t wearing his gold-rimmed glasses, but he was unmistakably Captain Milo Halstead.

Evan was about to make a hasty exit when he realized the former soldier was smiling at him through the glass. He may have looked smarter than he had last night, but his smile was still as warm and kind as a Nightingale Nurse’s. Evan didn’t imagine the captain remembered him, but he smiled back, thinking it would be impolite not to, then turned to walk away. To his surprise, Evan’s action was mirrored on the other side of the cabinet as Captain Halstead moved in the same direction. He was still looking at Evan, still smiling, and as they both reached the end of the cabinet, Evan wondered what would happen next. Would words be exchanged? And what would those words be? If Milo remembered him from last night and he wasn’t the genial man he seemed, they might hint at blackmail or violence.

Evan was tempted to put his head down and make a run for it, but he didn’t want to attract the attention of the museum guards. He took a breath and stepped forward, only to find Milo standing in his way.

“Excuse me. Could I get past?”

“Of course, but…” Milo’s smile was uncertain now, but he didn’t move from Evan’s path. “It was you I saw in the Rose and Crown last night, wasn’t it?”

Evan lowered his eyes and weighed up his options. He could admit he was at the pub and ask to know what business of Milo’s it was. Or he could deny being anywhere near the place, or even knowing of its existence. The latter seemed the most sensible choice, avoiding all confrontation, but when he looked up and saw Milo’s blue eyes sparkling cheerfully back at him, Evan was overwhelmed by a longing to spend a few seconds more in his company.

With no idea of Milo’s intentions, Evan answered, “That’s right. I saw you there too.”

 

About the Author

H. has worked with books for a number of years, and is delighted to finally find herself on the author’s side of the bookshelf. She enjoys writing historical romances, and contemporary stories too, and while her characters travel all over the world, they always have a touch of British humour.

H. has lived in various parts of the UK and currently lives in the north of England, where she’s enjoying city life as much as the beautiful countryside. In her spare time, H. loves going to the cinema and theatre, and her very eclectic tastes range from quirky comedy to ballet and Shakespeare, and pretty much everything in between.

 

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Incorrigible Blurb

Hiya,

I am (at last) giving The Incorrigible & The Count a last read through & formatting it for release.  It sort of grew, a tad, in the telling…so t’will be 42,300 words long, rather than 30,000 or so, as in the first 2 books. Here’s the blurb…

❤🖤❤🖤❤

 

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🖤❤🖤❤🖤

The Incorrigible…and counting

Hiya…

The final part of The Duke & Dandy series should be ready to release within the next couple of weeks.

I was hoping ‘twould be finished by the end of the month, but it appears to have grown in the telling. It has been edited, but I had a final ‘few’ chapters to write. At least half a dozen later…I’m almost done. 😳
While the first two books were about 30,000 words long, The Incorrigible & The Count is 40,000…and counting.

So…um, at least it’s a tad longer…? 🙄

incorrigible

“I want you and only you. I am prepared to go to the gallows declaring thus rather than relinquish you. If that makes me ‘weak’ or any less of a man in diseased eyes, then so be it. I care not, I will never prostrate myself on the altar of their hatred…”

Padraic, Duke of Waterford.  D&D#3

❤🖤❤🖤❤

Guest: Eric Huffbind

I’m delighted to welcome the wonderful Eric Huffbind with his latest novel ‘Distant Cousins’ 

Yours for 99p a snip…or free to read on KU 😊

 

99c BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Distant Cousins

Author: Eric Huffbind

Cover Artist: Eric Huffbind

Publisher: Self-Published

Genre/s: Contemporary Gay Male Romance

Release Date: September 28, 2018

Heat Rating: 4 flames

This book is intended for mature audiences

Length: 64,000 words/ 245 pages

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Buy Links – 99c/99p limited offer

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Blurb

Konner was looking forward to learning more about his family heritage. What he found was his entire life was a lie!

Konner O’Flattery, a passionate amateur genealogist, has finally gotten back the results of the DNA test he took. He’s been waiting months to uncover what mysteries his DNA has locked inside. But his results aren’t anything he expected, and he unearths a secret buried since birth. His heart becomes shattered leaving no room for forgiveness. Now, Konner feels compelled to go on a journey to find the truth of who and what he truly is.

Through the miracles of modern technology, Konner meets his distant cousin, Aaron Kirschenbaum. Turns out, he knows exactly who Aaron is, yet they’ve never met. Aaron makes the girls and boys alike swoon from his stunning good looks and velvety voice. Unfortunately, he’s picked up a bad habit of abusing his status for his own personal gain.

Konner’s story pulls on the strings of Aaron’s heart. So, he offers to help Konner, in any way he possibly can. Aaron finds Konner to be incredibly attractive, so the two men are swept up into an intense romance filled with sensuous heat and passion.

 

Excerpt

Konner heard a knock on the front door of his apartment, letting him know Aaron arrived. He opened the door to find Aaron dressed in a stunning men’s suit. “Come in. Goddamn! You’re so handsome! And I thought you were gorgeous in blue jeans. But shit! I’ve never seen any man look so beautiful. You’re breathtaking!” The color of his suit fell somewhere between a medium blue and dark gray. His blazer had pockets and lapels trimmed in what appeared to be black velvet piping. The dress shirt was a deep lilac with French cuffs, cufflinks in black onyx surrounded by gold and rhinestones, and a tie that could be best described as a black and white checked, herringbone pattern.

Coming through the door, Aaron leaned forward to give Konner a soft kiss. “Hello,” he greeted, wanting nothing more than the taste and feel of those supple lips. He was sporting a dark stubble beard, which prickled Konner’s lips. A sensation and look Konner never tired of.

Konner felt dizzy, from what most would consider being a gay man’s slice of paradise. “Fuck, between your black hair, blue eyes and the sexy face stubble, I’m ready to tear your clothes off and drag you straight to my bed!”

Aaron glowed. To him, Konner was the entire package. Good looks, great personality, amazing in bed, and a joy to be around. He said, using his most amorous voice, “Oh, really! So, does that mean I’m going to get lucky tonight?”

“I’d say the forecast looks promising.” Konner shook his head in amazement, “You’re gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous!” He grimaced, “Though, I’m afraid my one-bedroom apartment doesn’t compare to a home in Bel Air.”

“This apartment has you in it. So, for me, this address is more palatial than all of Bel Air.”

“What did I ever do to deserve you. David Kirkman in the flesh. Tell me I’m not dreaming.”

“No, no, no. Remember, I’m Aaron Kirschenbaum. Your long, lost cousin who couldn’t be happier to have been found.”

Konner’s heart was ready to burst. Not in a million years did he ever imagine a man of such status or wealth would ever want to go out with him. “Where are we going for dinner? Am I even dressed well enough?”

“The place is called 71Above. Have you heard of it?”

“Sure, I’ve heard of it. It’s so expensive! I appreciate being asked out and the way you’re treating me, but I don’t want to take advantage of your generosity. Then again, if you really want to go there, I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to afford it,” said Konner.

“First of all, it’s my treat, and you’re worth it. You asked for a perfect gentleman, and so that’s what I’m trying to be. Also, I wanted to use this opportunity to make up for being a complete ass toward you. I hope you’ll forgive me. Please, let me do this for you.” Aaron gushed a river of sincerity.

Konner melted under his unwavering charm. “Okay, let’s go then. Lead the way.”

***

Konner and Aaron arrived on the seventy-first floor of a tall high-rise building in downtown Los Angeles. The restaurant’s name, 71Above, was derived from the fact it was on the seventy-first floor. Views from the surrounding windows offered a three-hundred-sixty-degree, panoramic view of the city’s skyline. The restaurant’s manager and host greeted them. “Good evening, Mr. Kirkman. We’ve been expecting you. I noticed you had a 7:45 reservation. It’s always a pleasure to see you again. And who is this handsome gentleman you have accompanying you?”

“This is Konner O’Flattery, he’s my date.” He introduced Konner to their host. “Ralph is the manager of 71Above.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Konner greeted. “This is my first time dining here and I have to tell you, the views from up here are unbelievable. Magnificent!”

“Thank you, I can’t argue with that, the views are something else. Especially when you come up here at night time, and all the city lights appear. Let me see you to your table, gentlemen.” He escorted the two men to a table right next to a window. Ralph placed menus in front of each of them. “Enjoy your dinner.”

“I guess everybody recognizes you wherever you go?” Konner asked.

Aaron rolled his eyes. “A great deal of the time, but not always. Remember I explained, it feels like I can’t get off the stage.”

“Are you okay with that? Obviously, being recognized on a constant basis is an issue you can’t get away from.”

Just then a young woman, who appeared to still be a teenager, came up to their table. Her eyes illuminated with a distinct sparkle and gleam. “Excuse me, Mr. Kirkman, could I get your autograph, please.”

Aaron smiled at her, “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

“My name is Michelle, but most people just call me Mish.”

Aaron took the pen and autograph book from her and signed his name. “Here you go, Mish.”

Tears of happiness spilled down her face showing off her dimpled cheeks from the wide grin she wore. She said, “Thank you, thank you, Mr. Kirkman!”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart,” Aaron said returning the smile. Then she sped away back to her table with a pronounced bounce in her step.

“Sorry about that,” Aaron said to Konner. “I’m afraid that’s part of the package with me. I don’t have the heart to say no to autograph requests. Like I always say, I’d be nowhere without my fans.”

“Oh, please,” said Konner. “Look how happy you made her. Why should you apologize for making that sweet, polite girl feel special?”

“I can’t lie to you, I had boyfriends in the past who couldn’t take the constant interruptions. It’s one thing I always worry about when I date someone new. Will they be able to handle the attention?”

Konner reached over to hold Aaron’s hand. “I’m not deluding myself. I know that’s all part of the package, and I accept those terms. It’s fine with me; I don’t mind sharing you. Just put those concerns out of your mind.” A lightbulb switched on in Konner’s head as he realized, “In the brief time I’ve known you,” he shrugged his shoulders. “You’ve made me feel so comfortable. I mean to me, you’re just Aaron. There’s a Yiddish word I learned a long time ago, for people like you.”

Aaron was puzzled. “A word for people like me? I’m not following. Because I’m a singer?”

“No, that’s not it. It’s a word that means you’re a good, decent, upstanding person. I think it began with an M.”

“Oh—you must be thinking of the word mensch. Is that it?” asked Aaron.

“That’s it! A mensch. You’re a mensch.”

Aaron leaned forward wanting to steal a kiss. Konner asked, “Out here in public? You’re okay with that?”

“Would I be asking for a kiss if it concerned me? If some bigoted asshole wants to have a cow over two men kissing in public, they can go fuck themselves!”

Konner’s eyes shone, and he leaned forward to accept his kiss. “Thank you for bringing me here. I can’t imagine anything more romantic than right now.”

Aaron responded, “You’re welcome.” Their waiter came to see if the two men wanted something to drink before ordering. “A glass of White Zinfandel.” Looking across the table, Konner gave a telling nod. “Make that two glasses.” The rest of the evening went off without a hitch. Their dinners were delicious, the service wonderful, and Konner couldn’t tear his eyes away from the spectacular views. Not only the views out the window, but also seated across from him.

While the two gentlemen split a piece of chocolate-chip cheesecake for dessert, Konner made a suggestion, “Why don’t we go back to your place.”

“My place?” Aaron questioned. “Why go back to my place?”

“For one thing, your house is a lot closer than my apartment. And I’d like to spend the night with you. As long as you’re okay with that? I don’t want this evening to end, and I can’t think of anything more special than spending the night with you.”

“Nothing would make me happier. So, ummm, I guess this means you’re okay if we have sex?”

“Yes, it’s fine with me. I was just giving you a hard time. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I do prefer holding sex off on the first date. There’s a difference between a date and a hookup. I’m sure you understand what I mean by that. Besides, who am I kidding. We’ve already blown my no-sex-on-the-first-date rule.”

Aaron, a bit bashful, said, “True, but I feel like I’m to blame.”

“You’re darn right! You are to blame. You’re not getting off the hook for what you did. But—you had the integrity to be honest about what you’d done. That takes a lot of guts! I guarantee you, most men wouldn’t own up to it. Isn’t that what being a mensch is all about?” Aaron answered yes with a positive nod of his head. “At least I won’t freak out by you shoving your dick in my face!”

“I am sorry,” Aaron offered. Konner grinned and leaned forward to ask for a kiss. Aaron complied with the request, and he took this gesture to mean Konner forgave him.

 

About the Author

Eric Huffbind is a man of many talents. In addition to writing fiction, he’s a Registered Nurse, been a Travel Agent, an Uber Driver, a Hopeless Romantic, and the Eternal Social Butterfly. Among his passionate interests are history, genealogy, romance, and travel. Like so many other individuals, he has a long bucket list. On the list, to no surprise, was writing a book.

Although, his stories focus on the romantic relationship of two gay men, regardless of your sexual orientation, his novels are meant to rekindle the true spirit of romance and love in your heart. If Mr. Huffbind’s stories move you through an array of emotions, and it touches your romantic spirit, please share his books with a friend.

Mr. Huffbind was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and has remained in southwest Ohio for his entire life. He shares his life with his husband, an autistic son, and their beautiful Pomeranian, who goes by the name, Linus. The author welcomes your feedback and encourages your book reviews on Amazon.com or wherever the book was purchased. Mr. Huffbind may be reached at: eric@erichuffbind.com.

 

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The Incorrigible & The Count

Hiya,

I’m hoping that The Duke & The Dandy #3 will be ready by the end of the month. Or thereabouts. This is my self-published series – to keep me busy between MLR books – so I don’t go batpoop twiddling my thumbs.

When it’s ready, I’ll make it free for the 5 days I’m allowed. I do believe the first two have been out long ’nuff to qualify for another five-day-freebie. If they have, I’ll make those free at the same time, perchance peeps wish to read them first.

Somewhat slightly dazed

I’m too bejiggered to make a lot of sense…but I’ve been biting my knuckles for a wee while and seem to be all out o’words to express my relief.

I’ve been so anxious about how Darkness Dawns might be received. Not least because my writing is more than a mite Marmitey. I knew that there were three reviews on the way from bloggeroos, so I’ve had ants in m’pants for weeks. I’m now 2 down with 1 to go…and cannot thank Maggie Blackbird and Kenna at Joyfully Jay enough for the kindly eye they cast my way. Or for every wonderful word they wrote.

❤🧡💛💚💙💜

https://joyfullyjay.com/2019/03/review-darkness-dawns-by-zakarrie-clarke/
https://maggieblackbird.com/2019/03/04/darkness-dawns-by-zakarrie-clarke/

I’m off to lay down in a darkened room now, methinks…

Bookaversary Hangover

Tis the bookaversary of my first novel Hangover From Hell today.

Now there’s a sentence I never thought I would write. 😯 Even after signing the contract, I couldn’t quite believe ‘twould be published. I’m not a jot sure I’m convinced, even now… 😳

Best of all was the fact that MLRPress thought ’twas worth publishing. That’s a bit of a fib… Bestest was that they did so while allowing my boys to remain entirely themselves. I was convinced that Daniel (at the very least) would have to be diluted to a shadow of himself to be deemed publishable. That he wasn’t, means more than I can say without sounding like a loon. I’m so grateful to have been gifted one of the loveliest women I’ve ever known as my editor, and can’t thank her ’nuff for wading through my wafflish with nary a wtf? No matter what ye olde idiom I inflicted upon her.

Anyhoo… March 9th will fore’er remain a day to treasure in my memory stash. So I couldn’t let this day pass without thanking those who made it possible…and the much cherished readers who risked winding up with a Hangover from Hell.

xXx

Weekend Wafflish

Hiya,

I’ve finally started work after a couple of months that felt a very lot as if my brain had packed its bags and left the building. While it has popped by for a visit, it seems to have done so with caveats.

1. We will not edit anything that might make sense in the scheme of things. 
2. Instead, we will edit a stand alone novel with characters about a decade younger than usual. Post grad best-mates sharing their very first flat.
3. We will not wonder why we are proceeding with said cunning plan, which makes no sense. Whatsoever.

I suspect it’s watched Venom too many times, but what do I know?

Here are the first 2 chapters of the new story, perchance you wish to read them…

       

The First Day of Forever

Chapter One

Mattie

 

Today is the first day of forever…Mattie wrote. Or, it would be, if it was up to him.

 ‘Today I boarded the bullet train to Bedlam’ might’ve been a bit more truthful, but his diary didn’t often concern itself with such trivialities. It was Mattie’s dreamscape, a place to stash the daydreams he couldn’t really share with his best mate—well, he could—but that would probably be last thing he ever did. In truth, the outcome would very much depend on the mood of said mate at the time. Mattie hadn’t mentioned this either. Mostly ’cause that would be a surefire way of assuring that Curt’s mood swings came to a clattering halt. Not in a fun way. Thus, Matt had determined on keeping his lip buttoned on this most perfect of days, to ensure it remained exactly that.

There must be no Mattie mishaps on their very first day in their new flat. Or it might be well be their last. Now he’d just have to hope that he remembered; being far too fond of forgetting his best intentions the moment Curt Baxter prowled into a room. In his own defence? Curtis promptly became, without exception, the most distracting presence in it. Worse still, the scoundrel could pull this off even when he wasn’t—no—particularly when he wasn’t present. A fact that doomed Mattie to spending the entire time fretting about where the fuck Curt had elected to be instead. Instead of with his best mate, with whom he did most everything. Except the multitude of things Mattie must not long for most. Not least when he already had more of Curt than most were ever gifted…even those fortune favoured with everything Mattie ached to get his mitts on.

All he could do, was hope—hard—that Curtis never found out just how much. No matter how distracted Matt found himself. While it was all too…apparent that Mattie craved more than most besties coveted, Curt had neither backed off, nor let that infringe on their friendship. It had remained every bit as tactile as it had always been, which was as torturous as it was intoxicating.

Mattie knew that Curtis loved him—he said so whenever he was squiffy—it was just that this love was returned a mite more effusively than was customary. Perhaps prefixed by the word ‘in’. Two letters—a whole world of difference—but there was bugger-all Mattie could do about it, so he would just have to suck it up (if only) and savour every second of all he had. Rather than bemoan what might never be.

 This was the advice of his very best self, and Mattie had done his damnedest to pay heed. It didn’t help that there was no telling which flatmate he might find himself shacked up with from one minute to the next. It would be akin to living with a crew of Curts, which would be bloody brilliant…if they all wanted the same thing. Or, at least shared the same sensibilities. Then Mattie might have been able to persuade himself that he was pissing in the wind—but the truth was—they did not. Despite Curt’s oft declared straight-as-a-die disposition.

Curt Baxter was a living juxtaposition. Mattie had never met someone who emanated such an air of louche confidence—until you scratched the surface—and found yourself freeze-dried by the icy knot of dread crouched in his guts. His quicksilver wit was never more withering than when turned upon himself, so quite how he’d survived it thus far, Mattie knew not. Curtis was the most contrary creature on earth…and the most compelling. He was not only drop-dead gorgeous, he oozed far too much sex for comfort. Mattie’s. A chipper Curt was so luminous that his emerald gaze glowed like Kryptonite…but the minute he donned his trusty black dog backpack, that laser glare was as lethal as absinthe.

Matters had taken a toxic turn for the worse of late, after Curt got it into his barmy brain that he was going to wind up living on his tod in a dark bedsit, watching daytime telly and surviving on ready-meals-for-one. A dismal scenario he’d most likely cooked up watching too many kitchen-sink drama productions at work. To ensure that Curt’s (melo)dramatic descent into despair didn’t continue apace, or something such, Mattie had declared that it was high time they rustled up a cunning plan.

In truth, ‘plan’ sounded a tad too prescriptive. Mattie’s ideas were more akin to tatty old maps stashed in the attic, it must be admitted, but he wasn’t fussed where they wound up. The only matter of import was Matt’s companion on the journey itself. To cut a trip with many ruts in the road short; it had been decided that Messrs. Andrews and Baxter would find themselves a den of iniquity (pronounced ‘base’ apparently) from which to plot their magical mystery tour to Nirvana. Or thereabouts. A destiny as divine as a certain derrière. Almost.

The beginning of their forever was pinpointed on Mattie’s map as Hampden Road, Hornsey, N8. Curtis took one look at their new bedsit and declared it a hovel. No sense of romance whatsoever, some folk. It was very charming. In certain lights. If you squinted a bit. The ramshackle collection of rickety relics that rendered it ‘furnished’ perhaps explained why Curt had declared it could have come straight from an Osborne stage set. A comparison that stretched the truth a smidge, ‘cause they didn’t have an iron to plug into the light fitting. Not matter, it was as cheap as chips, which cancelled out all such technicalities.

The front door was a bit dodgy, so their best bet would be to enter and exit via the window instead. This would save having to slam it hard enough to shatter its titchy windows, so it was fortunate that they lived on the ground floor. Not least, when climbing a ladder after a session on the sauce perhaps wouldn’t end well. The merest sniff of a mishap might also aggravate their upstairs neighbours, who seemed to be self-appointed minions of the noise pollution police. This, despite forever clomping across the ceiling in bloody great Doc Marten boots.

Mattie still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to persuade Curtis to live with him. Not ‘living together’ as his lordship was at pains to point out, perchance anyone had the temerity to presume they were fuck-buddies. A VIP VBT on Curt’s list. Mattie didn’t actually give a toss why he’d agreed it was a bang-up plan—he had—which was the be-all and end-all o’matters.

Whatever Curtis had guzzled beforehand may have sealed the deal, unless he’d decided that being bored to death was best averted by bidding adieu to his sanity. Not that Mattie was in any position to cast aspersions; plotting how best to wrangle his way into Curt’s undercrackers possibly wasn’t the wisest of pastimes.

Quite how Mattie was going to survive sleeping next to Curt on the mattress they’d rescued from the tip, was something he was doing his utmost not to contemplate. For more than twenty-three hours a day, ‘cause that would have been excessive. Nonetheless, brave soldier that he was, Mattie had determined on making the best of it. Hopefully.

***

Curt had left Mattie to unpack his stuff while he popped to the shop to purchase a few necessaries and their supper. He would undoubtedly return laden with lager, tea-bags, bananas, bread and cigarettes. If he was feeling benevolent, Curtis might bring Coco-Pops. Knowing that your entire evening could be accurately predicted by the purchase—or not—of a box of cereal that turned the milk chocolatey? Prob’ly summed up their relationship a treat.

Nevertheless, tonight they were going to celebrate their brave new world with a bucket of fried chicken. Mattie had developed an unquenchable appetite for it, as was his wont when he was partial to something. An addiction that was possibly healthier than his penchant for rum, smokes and certain emerald-eyed men. How the hell they were going to live together without killing each other was beyond the bounds of logic—but it made a lot more sense than quadratic equations—and they’d been deemed essential to survival. So was Curtis.

Logic was not Mattie’s very best thing, it must be confessed, nor did he concern himself with it overmuch. That was Curt’s department. They’d always seemed to sort of finish each other off. It didn’t matter whether they were scrapping or sitting in a cafe scoffing bacon butties, there had always been one constant in their friendship. A sacred, sacrosanct something—an indefinable fizzle—from the first day they met. It was as incomprehensible as it was undeniable. Unless your name was Curt Baxter, o’course.

Every time they had a stonking row, Matt tried to convince himself that staying away would solve a multitude of problems. It would make life so much easier for a start. It wouldn’t be worth living. Doing so in a state of sex-starved frustration seemed a minor inconvenience when compared to the fact Mattie would be doing so with Curtis. It was simple; Matt would rather live in purgatory with Curt, than give up the hope holding him hostage.

This, despite the doom ‘n’ gloom days when he despaired of ever being gifted so much as a(nother) drunken fumble Curtis could forget by morn. An incident that was Mattie’s most prized and precious memory of all. Squirrelled away in his diary and shared with nary a soul.

One incomparable, incandescent night that convinced Mattie he wasn’t as deluded as he was daft. An occasion so memorable that he would never forget it until the day he popped his clogs; a party at which the lights were low, the broom cupboard pitch-black and the punch free-flowing. An evening when Curt had slurped himself into such a sozzled state, he seemed to have lost all sense of geometry. So much so, he appeared to believe that he was locked in a clinch with a leggy lovely, gifted with hands the size of say…a man well over six foot tall. Odd that.

***

Curt returned from his shopping spree clutching two carrier bags and accompanied by the delectable waft of KFC. A triple whammy of wondrous bulging with tempting treats; a multiple assault on the senses so staggering it made Mattie’s tongue tingle as if he’d shoved it into a socket.

“Welcome home,” he beamed, while retrieving the bursting bags so’s Curtis could clamber through the window. Curt just rolled those glorious greens but did bestow a hair ruffle on Mattie when he landed beside him. It was all Matt could do not to push against his palm like a contented cat and purr with pleasure. Instead, with a supreme effort of aforementioned will, he took himself off to stash the bags in their little kitchenette. Setting aside the two six-packs of lager for a mo, Mattie peered into the carriers and espied cigs, bread, bananas, milk, tea, sugar, nary a ready-meal…and a bumper box of Coco-Pops.

Ha. He loves me really…Mattie hummed to himself. His days were often punctuated by the plucking of petals one by one. He loves me, loves me not, loves me…on an endless loop-the-loop. Never had a box of Coco-Pops seemed so serendipitous. Mattie was still sporting an ear-licking grin while stashing the lager in the fridge. In their own kitchenette. In their own flat. Said refrigerator was ancient and made the most alarming noise when it rumbled to life doing its charging thing—or whatever it was that fridges did to amuse themselves—but it was theirs.

Shopping…scattered, Mattie plonked their bucket of chicken on the table with two cans of lukewarm lager. Supper was scrumptious. As was the sight of Curt scoffing it; teeth tearing into the succulent flesh of a drumstick, interspersed by tantalizing flicks of tongue that slithered across glistening lips. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Mattie’s addiction to the Colonel’s secret recipe…but suffice to say, it didn’t help matters much. Finger-licking good being the very definition of ‘understatement’. Watching a digit disappear into Curt’s cakehole to suck the grease off was a dessert to die for. If only it could ever come complete with a cherry on top.

“Curt, will you get your guitar and play something for me?” Mattie asked when he’d polished off his supper. “I have words flitting…where are the pens?”

“God knows, there might be one in the pocket of my leather. Failing that, you might actually have to unpack one of those.” Curt inclined his head towards the pile of carrier bags in the corner. The ones Matt had, um, forgotten about when his lordship popped to the shops.

Instead of parrying that slice of snark with a spot of impertinence, Mattie kept schtum as he rooted around for a pen. Mostly ’cause he didn’t have a leg to stand on, but he also wanted Curt to play more than he wanted to wind him up. Mattie was pretty sure the notebook was in the pocket of his coat, which was p’raps pointless without a pen, but one of those could usually be procured, whereas a pad could not. You couldn’t cram many lyrics onto a bus ticket.

“What d’you want me to play?” Curt asked, after fetching his guitar from his own immaculate stash of stuff and seating himself at the table.

“Whatever comes into your head. A melody sprinkled with minor chords, without being too melancholic?”

“That shouldn’t be a problem, I don’t feel miserable.” Curt paused for a moment as a smile twerked the corner of his still shiny lips. “I feel pretty chipper, actually,” he blinked, more than a mite bemused by his own admission.

Mattie’s heart soared, out-fluttering his thoughts as he gazed at Curt’s radiant face; lit up by the devilish grin aglint in his eyes. Illuminating the whole room, and Mattie’s world with it. He knew he could endure months, years, decades of the black-dog despair that clouded Curt’s brow, for one iridescent moment of his happiness.

Curtis started to strum softly, a melody that rippled from magical fingertips to shimmer down Mattie’s spine. Letting his eyelids slide shut, he watched the words flit through his thoughts for a wee while…then began to scribble furiously. His pen could scarce keep up with the letters that spilled forth, scattering themselves across the page as Mattie watched Curt’s clever fingers dance across the strings, coaxing out an intricate tapestry of sound.

Whenever they sat down to work on a new song, Mattie could scarce bring himself to believe it would still be there. That invisible thread tugged as taut as a guitar string between them. Twanging with the torrent of stuff that simmered beneath the surface. Feelings wrangled into rhyme, gifting them a veil of validity. Lust unexpressed, secrets suppressed. Their very essence encapsulated in song; Curt’s melodies entwined with Mattie’s words.

It was the only way Curtis could allow them a tangible form without fear of...fucknows what. It was enough—more than enough—half of Curt was twice as much as anyone else could ever be. While it would be a travesty of truth to suggest that there was nothing on earth Mattie would rather do than make music with Curt; he could at least cling to the fact that his fingers were gainfully occupied with a pen in the meantime.

Their new neighbours didn’t seem quite so delighted by their efforts as they were. Every time Curt started to strum so much as a fragrant chord, a cacophony of banging on the ceiling caused a plaster shower to rain down on their barnets.

“Damn cheek, they stomp louder than you strum. If this keeps up, we’ll be saddled with shocking dandruff.”

“I’m more worried what we might pick up from that mattress, frankly.” Curt muttered, casting it a shifty side-eye. He did have a point. Mattie was starting to fear for his pulling prowess. Curtis would no doubt not have to concern himself with such minor inconveniences. He only had to prowl into a room with a wicked gleam in those glinty greens and women’s knickers fell off.

“I very much doubt you need to worry, I’d still wind up spending half of my life kipping on the sofa.”

“On the sofa!? What d’you think this is…? The Playhouse?” Curt gaped.

“Good thinking, I’ll put some popcorn on the shopping list,” Mattie noted, as breezy as y’please, while springing from his seat to haphazardly gather the debris of their supper stuff from the table. If only to conceal the fact that his face was far too fond of revealing more than his flat-mate cared to see reflected there.

“Are you fed up of living?” Curt snorted.

“That’s your department, dear Curtis. Well, that and chucking me out of my bloomin’ bed.”

“You tosser.”

“Chance would be a fine thing…again.” Mattie muttered the last bit under his breath, which was promptly cut off by a flying blur of green and gold when Curt launched himself forwards and barrelled into Matt like a bowling ball. He didn’t even have time to brace himself—if that was even possible—he’d never tested this theory. Strangely enough.

So, down they went in a tangle of limbs, Curtis splayed atop him. After making a swift grab for Mattie’s wrists, the scoundrel wrestled them to the floor either side of his head and sat back with an air of triumph. Mattie could scarce blink, let alone rustle up any sort of response, cos the lush tush was now sat atop his belly; a fact that caused chaos a few inches behind said butt, resulting in an acute case of cripple-cock. To make matters worse, should Curtis happen to shift back a bit, he would find himself perched on faarr too much info. This would be a Very Bad Thing. Tragically, Mattie’s list of VBTs tended to encompass his Very Best Things too…which was, of course, another VBT.

“Oh dear, you seem to have run out of hands to clobber me with,” Mattie pointed out, after somehow snatching enough air to speak.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I have a head,” Curt smirked.

Oh yes, Curt certainly did…and Mattie had. Noticed. Here ‘n’ there. That was a bit of a fib. He’d done a mite more than that; under cover of darkness, while wearing his trusty feminine fingers. Thinking about that, roundabout then was also a VBT, on accounts of volcanic consequences in the pants department.

Mattie’s list of VBT’s was swiftly assuming Andrex proportions. They’d soon be able to paper the flat with it, should they fancy doing a spot of decorating. 

There was something most odd about Curt’s mood tonight. Rather than becoming miffed if Matt pushed him too far, it felt more as if Curt might shatter if Mattie so much as touched him with an untoward fingertip. That was a thought destined for the top of the list, so Mattie did his damnedest to stash it away to ponder later, when he couldn’t sleep. A feat he might never manage again…but that seemed very small price to pay for being snuggled up to Curt on a single mattress. Even upside down.

Quite what Curtis hoped to achieve by this top-to-tail arrangement was unfathomable. It was way too close to an oft-dreamed VBT to ever be considered a comfy prospect…

***

Chapter Two

Curt

Curt had left Mattie with strict instructions to unpack his stuff, knowing full well that he would return to find one, maybe two, bags upended on the floor and scattered like an explosion in a thrift shop across the threadbare carpet. Having unearthed some bit of tat that entranced him anew, it would be examined with a reverence most would reserve for the Sistine Chapel.

He was willing to bet a box of Coco-bloody-Pops that this was where the unpacking would screech to a halt. There Matt would remain; as would the sea of detritus he was sat amidst. This would no doubt stay exactly where was, until Curt couldn’t stand it for another second and crammed it all back into the bags. All too soon afterwards, Mattie would announce that he’d ‘lost’ something and upend the lot in a scramble to find it. Until, of course, he happened upon a long-lost treasure far more irresistible than the (now forgotten) thing he’d initially sought.

It had not escaped Curt’s notice that this was uncannily akin to a life spent with Mattie. Full stop. A bloody minefield. One he seemed to have felt compelled to spend the last three years blundering through. So much so, that Curt had now deemed it a cunning plan to pitch a tent in it.

Marvellous. His mood had all too swiftly turned maudlin. Ten minutes ago, Curt had felt far too satisfied with his lot. He had finally allowed himself to do what he most wanted—feared—and had been enjoying his moment of victory over the snake pit of anxiety forever seething in his guts. The gnawing in his nuts was a different matter, but that had only been true for about…three years.

Curt knew why. Of course, he did. It was hard to ignore—a sentence that said much more than it ought—but he did his damnedest to. He just didn’t want to lose his best mate. The friend Curt had spent his whole life longing for but had given up hope of finding. Someone he could be himself with, rather than having to assume a persona to be ‘popular’. Liked. How pathetic that sounded—even in his head—which didn’t make it any less true. He’d always nurtured the hope he might meet someone who…got him. A friend who liked him for himself, rather than despite himself. A soulmate of sorts.

Curt had promised himself that he would find all this in London. Like millions before him, he’d banked upon the streets being paved with…if not gold, then a tarnished bronze that was far more intriguing. He’d pinned all his hopes on a drama course at Uni, convinced it would be crammed with free-spirits who didn’t give a toss about fitting in. He’d been gutted to discover that most of the drama students were as conformist as folk in the suburbs, except more dramatically so. While he’d liked most of them well enough, Curt had pretty much given up hope of meeting someone…captivating. Someone who danced to music only they could hear, rather than the muzak piped through the system. That is, until the fateful day he’d dragged himself to the library, hoping to find a copy of the play he planned to audition for. The day he met Matt Andrews.

From the moment they’d met, nothing had felt as daunting, desperate, or depressing. Nor even seemed to matter overmuch. For brief periods Curt had found himself somehow able to sweep his own fears aside and…believe. Believe because Mattie believed enough for them both—and most inexplicably of all—appeared to believe in Curt.  It had been far too late to do anything except fear losing his best mate by the time Curt realised exactly how he felt about Mattie.

On dark days he wondered where it had all gone so wrong—despite the fact he knew that this was a crock of shite—it was far too right. It’s very rightness freaked Curt the fuck out. It meant that he had so much more to lose.

A fact that had (contrarily) compelled him to attempt to keep Matt at a careful distance in a futile attempt to retain some sense of…self? Safety. An effort doomed before it began, because Curt hadn’t had the strength to stay away. He’d just wound up half-crazed with longing for Mattie’s company, to see the mischief glitter in his midnight eyes. Enduring the self-imposed distance had proved far more excruciating than the effect of Mattie’s presence on Curt’s sensibilities.

Nothing had made so much as a dent in the need gnawing his guts. Nuts. Heart. Head. No matter how much Curt had drank, snorted or shagged, he’d still felt empty. As if half of himself was missing. Worst of all, it hadn’t just been Mattie’s company he craved—nor the bond Curt treasured—he’d yearned for the very things he’d fled from. That smile. The dark spotlight of Mattie’s gaze. The way Curt felt when they were together.

He’d spent many sleepless nights, tossing and burn—turning—hell-bent on convincing himself that he’d just found the kindred spirit he’d craved. No more, no less. A pure, powerful, love in a cruel, cold world. It was simple; Curt feared losing Mattie more than…whatever the fuck else he wanted.

Yes, Curt had crushed on a fair few rock stars; men who were everything he wished he was—wanted to be—but he’d never fancied any of his mates. That said, none of them had been gifted with the lithe grace of Prince or the lizard hips of Jim Morrison. Nor looked like Jamie Cullum after a session on a stretching rack. Saddled with three sisters, he’d always been comfortable with women, and enjoyed shagging them far too much to question his own sexuality. Even if he’d had cause to, Curt couldn’t begin to convince himself that he would have found it possible to take Matt Andrews in his stride.

No matter how hard he tried, Curt could not define what Mattie meant to him. Neither as a person, nor as a part of his life. He defied categorization. To state that Matt seemed about as masculine or feminine, as he did black or white, didn’t begin to cover it. He frequently didn’t appear to be entirely human. Mattie grappled with mundane matters as if they were an unwieldy deck-chair he couldn’t quite fathom, despite the fact Curt had never met anyone with such a brilliant brain. The miscreant hoovered up knowledge with a flair Curt reserved for nefarious substances. Sometimes Matt didn’t seem entirely…present in a roomful of people, despite being the most luminous person in it. Curt would watch, entranced, as Mattie sat, smiling his secret smile, lost to a world away from the tatty pubs they frequented, chasing the faraway thoughts that flitted through his head.  Mattie was a melody without rhyme nor reason, as incorrigible as he was…captivating.

By the time Curt realised how he felt about his best friend, it was far too late to do anything other than fear losing him. Driving himself half-insane fretting about it had achieved fuck all. There was nothing to be done. Other than hope he met a woman who turned him on the way Mattie did—personality wise. In Curt’s infinite wisdom, he’d furthermore decided that living together would drive them both so demented that being apart would be a bloody relief.

*

Despite their constant bickering, their fights never flared up over anything important. They only ever fought about nonsense that meant little and mattered less. It frequently felt about the only way to syphon off the excess fucknowswhat whenever Mattie was…well, being Mattie. It was so akin to rage that Curt wound up consumed by the need to punch something. Perhaps because he was always nearest; so very there—and bloody tall—this translated into a desperate desire to punch Matt. The proximity of two of those words really didn’t help matters. Curt spent an increasing amount of time trying not to think, or swiftly backtracking when he did.

“I’m going to bed in a minute, I’m knackered,” Curt announced after their latest wrestling bout. “I’ve got a shift tomorrow and there’s an after-show shindig, so I’ll have to work overtime.”

“Oh nooo…we’re supposed to be practising,” Mattie pouted, sticking his bottom lip out. Grown men should not look cute sulking. Especially far too tall ones. That was just ridiculous. Everything about Mattie was far too something-or-other. As was everything he did, said and thought. Even his effect on Curt was excessive.

“Yeah, I know…” Slumping back in his seat at the table, Curt lit a cigarette and inhaled gratefully before sighing out a stream of smoke. “…but we need the money. Keeping you in KFC doesn’t come cheap.”

“Curtis. You know exactly where that money will go.” Pursing his pin-cushion lips, Mattie tapped the side of his nose illustratively.

“Fuck off!”

“I thought you were knackered.” Mattie ducked when Curt lobbed the lighter at him, grinning as it sailed over his head and bounced off the wall. He had the reflexes of a bloody cat.

Curt decided not to dignify such impertinence with an answer. Largely because…well, it wasn’t a conversation that would go anywhere he was willing to venture. He sure as shit didn’t conduct it while he was asleep either, but this didn’t make a damn bit of difference to the dreams that desecrated Curt’s fitful slumbers. They were getting worse. Better. Much worse.

He was banking on the fact that sleeping in the same bed as Mattie, night after night, would neutralize his nearness through familiarity. Negate it. With a bit of luck Curt would get so pissed off by Mattie’s incessant fidgeting and being stabbed by sharp elbows, he’d never want to get in bed with him again. In any way, shape or form. It was an infallible plan.

“Curt…?”

“Uh-oh…I have a bad feeling about this.”

“Paranoid, you are, Master Curtis.” 

Curtis, for chrissakes. Mattie had decreed that said moniker better befitted a drama student, and it had somehow stuck. Curt had been in no position to complain, although that hadn’t stopped him pretending affront; he had been the one to start the nickname thing, by telling Mattie he looked like Bill ‘n’ Ben. The Flowerpot Men. A comparison that promptly saw Curt christened ‘Bill’ to Mattie’s ‘Ben’. Despite the fact that the flowerpot twins were identical, and Curt did not have a moon-beam face with huge dark eyes that damn near devoured it.

“Ha.Ha. What’re you after?” he sighed.

“Who says I want something?” Matt’s melodious voice rose three octaves in protestation.

“I do. Come on, y’know you’ll ask me eventually, so you may as well stop prevaricating.”

“It wasn’t bad, honest. I just wondered, well…are you regretting this already? You seem miffed with me, am I getting on your nerves?”

“No…” Curt sighed, scraping his too-long fringe back from his face, but it just flopped straight back down. He needed a haircut…and a new flat-mate.

“It’s not you. I’m just, tired…and worried about money, that’s all. I want us to do this…”

“Y’sure?”  Barely above a whisper as whirlpools of beseeching brown dragged him to his doom.

Curt nodded, despite himself. No matter what mischief Mattie got up to, Curt always wound up feeling like an evil panto villain if he expressed the slightest irritation. It was most perplexing. Mattie was just so bloody…endearing. Another thing a grown man had no right to be. Curt wasn’t annoyed with Mattie. He was pissed off with himself. Annoyed because he was aching to go to bed, for the comfort of darkness…and Mattie’s nearness without the self-recrimination that accompanied it.  Sleeping on the mattress was their only option until they could afford beds—it was necessary—so Curt wouldn’t have worry about their proximity…to prove the lie. Grinding out his cigarette, he drained the dregs of his lager and plonked the empty can on the table with a hollow sounding clunk.

Curt stood and stretched, far too tense for comfort, let alone sleep. Then tried to ignore the guilty thrill that shot through his system when he caught sight of Mattie’s wide-eyed face. He looked rather as if he’d walked in on Curt having a wank. He should not have to feel guilty for stretching, that was ludicrous.

In truth, the way Mattie watched him was…exhilarating. He gazed at Curt for all the world as if he was…extraordinary. Exceptional. He couldn’t begin to fathom why Mattie had so much faith in him when Curt had none whatsoever in himself—but it didn’t matter—his ever-excessive Mattie seemed to have enough for them both.

He knew that Ben loved him…and Bill loved him back. How could he not? Mattie was as loveable as he was impossible. That brilliant brain entranced Curt every bloody day as he wafted around conjuring magic from mundanity. He was lethal. Living with Mattie Andrews was, without doubt, the best dreadful decision Curt had ever made in his life.

*

Better. Curt blew out a long breath, pressing his forehead to the cool comfort of the cabinet mirror. Lifting his head, he met the glassy gaze of the stranger staring back. Who was he, this doppelgänger who couldn’t even doss down with his best mate without having to sort himself out first? Curt could never have strolled back into their room in the state he’d been in so, other than sleep in the bath, he hadn’t had a lot of choice. Curt hadn’t wanted to want to. Largely because of the image he knew full well would loom behind his lids and the name he’d be forced to bite back in bitter anguish.

It was brutal. It didn’t matter how punishingly Curt went about it; whiplash wrist sweeping in perfunctory, jarring jerks, teeth gritted as he glared down at his cock. Damn thing didn’t give a toss—on the contrary—it seemed to glory in it. It was like living with a poltergeist in his pants. A somewhat chafed one. Worse still, Curt’s hand seemed so much smaller than the hand haunting his—FUCK. NO.

Dragging in a jagged breath, he yanked open the bathroom door and stood in the hallway, head hanging forwards, gripping his thighs. A grip. Exactly what he needed to get. He was just horny, that’s all. He hadn’t had sex for a few days. No chance of that tomorrow either, because Curt was working late. He was going to combust if this kept up.

Straightening up, Curt raked a hand through his hair, attempted a human expression, gave up, and pushed open the door. Mattie was in bed. Lying on his side, ramrod straight, looking uncannily like a scamp who’d been tucked up for the night and told not to get up to mischief.

“I thought you’d decided to kip in the bath…” Matt greeted him.

“It would probably prove a helluva lot more comfortable than your elbows.” Curt snorted.

“My heart bleeds for you. I’ll have to endure your feet in my face while mine hang over the edge of the bed, so think yourself fortunate. I’ll get frostbite and my toes will drop off and all you’ll have is a titchy bruise or two.” Mattie sniffed.

“Titchy? Those things are lethal.”

“Stop cussing, my elbows can hardly take your eye out, so su—” Matt’s damn near plopped onto the duvet when he clamped his lips shut, mid-word. A suspended silence was finally shattered by a single syllable. “—there.”

The two-and-a-half he hadn’t uttered? Were deafening.

.