Guest · Release Blitz

Release Blitz: Nell Iris – Always You

 

Hiya,

It’s high time for a bit of light and lovely relief…

A warm welcome to the wonderful Nell Iris and her latest release ‘Always You’.

 

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Always You

Author: Nell Iris

Publisher: JMS Books

Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs

Release Date: May 30, 2020

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Childhood friends to lovers

Themes: Self-discovery

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Length: 11 000 words

It is a standalone story.

Goodreads

Buy Links

JMS Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo |

 

Best friends. Roommates. And now, maybe…more?

Blurb

Thom Novak feels like a walking cliché: the gay guy desperately in love with his straight best friend, Lee. But he’s willing to keep his feelings hidden, to do whatever it takes, as long as they stay friends forever.

Lee Conway loves sharing an apartment with Thom, his best friend since birth, and would be happy doing it for the rest of his life…no matter his current girlfriend’s opinion on the matter. But he’s never been known for being in contact with his emotions.

When something happens to upset the status quo, Lee pulls away. Has Lee learned how Thom feels about him? Will it mean the end of their friendship? Or is there another reason Lee needs time to think? A more…hopeful reason?

Excerpt

The next morning, I’m one hundred and ten percent certain something’s wrong. It’s 6:17 AM and I’m waiting for Lee in the kitchen, leaning against the sink, trying to make my glass of water last so I have an excuse for hanging around, doing nothing but staring in the direction of his bedroom.

Every morning, we go out running together at 6 AM on the dot. Without fail, come rain or shine, weekend or workday. The only exception is if either of us is sick or if it’s a world-ending kind of storm outside. And Lee is a stickler for being on time: between him and me, I’m the one who’s always late and leave him waiting impatiently for me to get ready.

And now it’s almost twenty past six and he hasn’t showed his face yet?

Outside, it’s a lovely May morning. The birds are chirping, waking up the neighborhood, and the first rays of sun promise to finally heat up our corner of the world. So no world-ending storm in sight, and yet he’s nowhere to be seen.

Is he dying?

Any other day, I would march into his room, pull off his down comforter, and yell in my best—albeit not very good—imitation of a drill sergeant—Get up, get up, get up!—but today I’m strangely reluctant.

On one hand, I want an explanation for his weird mood from yesterday—and his tardiness!—but on the other hand I still want to give him time if he needs it. And part of me isn’t entirely sure I’m not over-reacting.

But I can’t help thinking that it has to be something about me. What if he found out how I really feel about him and can’t deal with it? Not that I can recall doing something to show my hand, but I can’t be sure.

Maybe it’s something Debora said? Did she figure me out and tell him? She’s never shown any homophobic tendencies, so I don’t think that would be the reason. But maybe she’s jealous? She wouldn’t be the first of Lee’s girlfriends to be jealous of our close friendship, and I can’t really blame her if that’s the case.

But that can’t be it either. Every time someone has complained about our friendship in the past, Lee’s shut them down immediately. He wouldn’t accept it from her. And to be perfectly honest, Debora has always been friendly and nice whenever we’ve met and not shown any indication of being jealous.

And I’m back to thinking he must have figured out how I feel about him, even though it seems highly unlikely. I mean, I haven’t told him specifically—or written my feelings down on a sign—but whatever it is, I hope it won’t come between us.

I can live without having Lee Conway as my life partner, but I can’t live without his friendship. Losing it would kill me.

In the end, I decide to give him time, and live with his ire if it turns out he overslept—yeah, right!—and I neglected to wake him. I shove my feet into my shoes and head out on my own.

Running alone is weird. Lee is the whole reason I’m a runner at all; when he decided he wanted to become a professional football player when he was ten, he told me he needed to start taking his “fitness routine” seriously and he was going to start running every morning. When I made a disgusted face over the thought of getting out of bed in the buttcrack of dawn to go out and run of all things—wake me up and take me to the library and I would have been game, but running?—he zeroed in on me and started lecturing me on how even science geeks needed to stay healthy. He went on and on—and quoted me honest-to-god, real, actual facts!—until I broke down and agreed to come along. I’ve never been one to resist science. Or Lee. And the combination was deadly even when I was ten.

About the Author

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies room), loves music (and singing along at the top of her voice but she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (Make it so). She loves words, bullet journals, poetry, wine, coffee-flavored kisses, and fika (a Swedish cultural thing involving coffee and pastry!)

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a bisexual Swedish woman married to the love of her life, a proud mama of a grown daughter, and is approaching 50 faster than she’d like. She lives in the south of Sweden where she spends her days thinking up stories about people falling in love. After dreaming about being a writer for most of her life, she finally was in a place where she could pursue her dream and released her first book in 2017.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angsty, short over long, and quirky characters over alpha males.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website | Facebook Author Page | Facebook Profile

Twitter: @nellirisauthor | Instagram: @nell_iris | Goodreads

QueeRomance Ink | BookBub

Giveaway

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Wafflish

My Way 7

My Way

 

9 Mac

 

 

When Mac emerged from the bathroom, it was to find himself staring at an empty landing. Shit. Had Joe gone back up to the attic…or downstairs?

“Joe!” No answer came the reply. The former seemed most likely, so Mac took the rickety steps three at a time and found…fuck all. Gone for a smoke in the study? Off Mac set, skidding down two staircases to the detritus strewn hallway. Joe wasnae in the study, kitchen, or anybloodywhere else on the ground floor. “Joe! Where the hell are you?” 

Mac might not know where Joe was, but knew damn well what the miscreant was up to.  The rooms leading off the landing seemed the most likely prospects; the ones he’d claimed were just ‘full of stuff’. If Joe wasnae to be located there—then where had he shot off to—in the sliver of time it took Mac to empty his bloody bladder?

“JOE!” His former bedroom seemed Mac’s best bet, so he stuck his head around the next two doors, slightly ajar, which were, indeed, full of fucknowswhat, but no Joe. The third housed a bed, buried beneath a mountain of clothes and yet more crap, but no occupant.

There was, however, a second door in the corner, which was the only one he’d come across so far that was shut. It was probably a closet—the least natural habitat of the lesser-spotted Joe, on irony grounds alone—but Mac was short on options. “Joe!” he hollered for about the fifth time, yanking on the handle. Nada. Locked. “JOE! F’FUCKSAKES! Joe, are yer in there?” Stupid question. Of course he was…it was bolted on the inside. Mac slammed his palm on it in frustration, “Let me in!” 

“Come in…” Joe’s sing-song voice sighed. 

At least he’s alive, but strewth, give me strength… “‘Come in’, f’chrissakes,” Mac muttered to himself, blowing out a looong breath. “Joe! What yer doin’ in there?” Cretinous question; the sequel. “Open this bloody door! NOW!” Mac snarled, hammering the wood with the side of his fist.

“I’m on the looo.” A likely story. “Macass?” ‘Macass’? For the love of all things unholy. Who the hell else would it be?

Mac wondered whether his shoulder would suffice—there being no keyhole—which tended to indicate a perfunctory ‘I’m in the loo’ catch. Or, whether he’d be forced to kick the damn thing down. At least he was wearing boots, kickboxing proficiency or no…

The door juddered, but held against the slam of Mac’s sole. The splintering that accompanied the second side kick sounded promising…one more and the lock surrendered, allowing the door to swing wide with a crash. Revealing the slumped-on-the-bog body Mac was supposed to be guarding. He wasn’t sure whether he was more pissed with Joe, or himself. Aye, he damn well was. Only one of them had failed to live up to their billing. 

When the hell had Mac become so lame-brained? Or allowed himself to be lulled into a false sense of security? Ever. Not least by the breeze off a pair of bloody eyelashes. Albeit, aided and abetted by Joe’s apparently right-as-rain frame of mind and its focus on… Mac’s arse, or the appetite of his own. Of course, Joe would have been beset by cravings—he was awake—but he hadnae seemed wracked by withdrawal. Had he simply seized the first opportunity, or had something specific triggered Joe’s flight? Later. 

“C’mon, get up,” he sighed, clasping a wiry bicep. Joe just aimed a smudgy smile Mac’s way as pinprick pupils made an effort to target his face. Dragging on a rag-doll arm proved as pointless as Joe was impervious to instruction. So, Mac grasped gangly wrists and hauled hard, before ducking beneath an armpit. Bracing himself, Mac straightened up with his semi-conscious cargo draped over one shoulder.

The staircase was too narrow to cart the miscreant to his sanctuary…and the bed beyond the bathroom was covered in crap. The study armchair was about Mac’s best bet. Joe would be upright, in case he threw up after being carried...if  he made it that far without barfing down Mac’s back. Splendid. There was so much Joe, his fingers would probably trickle down each step on their way. It was like trying to wrangle a deckchair. Joe weighed much the same; there was nothing of him, he was all skin and bone and sharp joints. Fragile.

After advising Joe on the perils of puking, Mac was informed that it wouldnae be ‘a fitting tribute’ to his own backside. Or words to that effect. F’chrissakes. Semi-comatose, and Joe’s mental hard-on was still indefatigable. Good grief, it would be like shafting a stuffed toy giraffe.

“Here. Sit there,” Mac grunted, bending to let Joe slither off into the chair. “Do not move. I’m gonnae fetch you a glass of water. God, I need a smoke,” a litre of Glenfiddich and the aforementioned bucket of coke. 

He should have confiscated Joe’s stash for safekeeping, if only to prove Mac meant business. There’d still be caches secreted in the obvious to most preposterous places, of course: pockets, cisterns, sock drawer, tobacco tins, taped under tables, ad infinitum. Sweeping the house wouldn’t suffice without sniffer dog assistance, in which case the dust in the attic would likely set it off.

The kitchen wasnae desecrated with quite the carnage Mac had expected to assault his sensibilities. There were a distinct lack of pizza boxes, mouldering saucepans piled in the sink and used teabags squatting in rusty puddles. Nor were any black bags disgorging their contents onto the floor, which indicated that Adam had either tidied up a bit, or Joe hadn’t stepped foot in it for six months. After finding a clean-ish mug, Mac filled it with water and returned to the study where Joe had (thank fuck) stayed put. He was still draped over the armchair, all languid limbs and fluid lines, gazing in the general direction of the door through half-mast lids. He did make an effort to focus as Mac approached, cherub lips curving in a dopamine smile. “Sorry…”

“Liar…” Mac’s lips twitched in a smirk, despite himself.

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t…?” Joe offered, with a hint of sheepishness so unexpected, it belied belief.

“I meant the ‘sorry,’” Mac clarified.

“I’m sorry I…made you cross?” Joe amended, blinking up at Mac with pools of liquid midnight. Lethal.

“I am ‘cross’ with me, not you….but sure as shit wish you hadnae scurried off the second you saw your chance. You’ve proved your point, happy?”

“I-that wasn’t…I didn’t—”

“Joe, that’s how it felt.” Mac cut in, before Joe tied his tongue in a knot trying to excuse the inexcusable. “I am not your enemy, I stated that from the off. I’m pissed because my word meant fuck all, was worthless. I asked you to be straight with me…and I wouldnae have stopped you. So, why?”

“I was….scared you might. Wasn’t worthless…’twas…improbable. Mac…?” Bottomless eyes, as imploring as they were implausible. ‘Beguiling’ didn’t begin to cut it. Bewitching

“What?” Mac slammed his own shut and…willed some blood to his brain.

“I am sorry…”

“Aye…and you will be next time…” Mac sighed, shaking his head. “Smoke?” He turned to reach for his cigarettes, avoiding the visual amplification of that plaintive tone. It had, at least, sounded…contrite. 

“Hm…please.” 

Mac tugged a couple out, lit one and held it to pincushion lips that parted, wonderment writ large…where else? Bloody things would be the death of one of ’em. At least.

“Like I said, I’m not your enemy,” Mac grunted, sinking into the other seat and lighting his own before dragging in a deep lungful. Ahhh..

It hit Mac that he didn’t have a clue how long ago he’d arrived in the Cotswolds. At fifteen hundred hours. Precisely. Now? It could be five-ish or half-eight, or thereabouts… Mad Hatter’s Tea Party time, for all it felt as if he’d fallen down the rabbit hole. 

In fact, it was probably still fifteen-o-five in London. He’d drive Joe back there on ‘Monday’ and it would still be 15:25 on Saturday afternoon—the same day he’d left—Today. Mac had patently lost the plot. How entirely unsurprising.

‘Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald…?Mac spluttered the most indecorous snort when his own shit-for-brains snark made a most unwelcome reappearance. Oh f’chrissakes…

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 6

Hi… I should p’raps add a note that this chapter contains heroin use…

 

 

My Way

 

8. Joe

 

 

 

 

 

“…I am not here to service you. This really isn’t flattering. C’mon, get your hungry arse into gear and show me around…”

Joe wasn’t trying to be flippin’ flattering, he was trying to find out which bloomin’ team the bad-ass batted for. He still hadn’t given Joe a straight answer…let alone a glad to be gay one. 

In truth, Joe’s arse only got peckish when it specifically fancied what was on the menu. It was currently convinced it was seated at the top table and hoping there was an all-you-can-eat offer on. Despite being at pains to point out that Joe was a two-bit tart, Mac wasn’t so free ‘n’ easy when it came to his own proclivities. It was the not knowing that was doing Joe’s head in.

“By the way…you still haven’t said no. Just sayin,” he pointed out after another ping-pong session of back ’n’ forth beating around the bush. Joe had more chance of finding a vein that wasn’t shot to shit than a snippet of info about Mac. If the scoundrel would just say no-way-Joe-sé, that would be that, sorted.

“No.” Spat out like a pesky pip.

Or not. It sounded a lot like no…but sure didn’t feel that way, which was as daft as it was deluded. Mac was so far out of Joe’s league that he was more likely to cop off with the vicar’s wife than have designs on Joe’s person.

Chances were, he’d gone bloody barmy but the bee in Joe’s bonnet wouldn’t let him leave well alone. Not when Mac exuded a sexual frisson akin to standing next to an electric fence. All o’which left Joe beset by buzzing a lot like an incessant itch, impossible to scratch.

Perusing his own press for a few minutes would prove just how pathetic he was. If all their lurid headlines were legit, rather than fashioned from a grain of truth, or embellished beyond recognition, Joe wouldn’t touch himself with a bargepole. Let alone risk co-starring in the forthcoming feature article Junkie-Joe-Scores-Again

Junkie Joe. What was the point? That’s all they’d ever let him be now. Pretty-Woman-Julia-Roberts would forever be just that. Until she wound up Not-So-Pretty-Woman-Julia-Roberts, which wasn’t much consolation on the ‘day to aspire to’ front. Former-Junkie-Joe-Fitzgerald was about the only headline he had a hope in hell of reaping ’til the Grim Reaper came-a-calling. P’raps his one shot at a future, full stop. 

Thus, it was that Joe’s best intentions died a death as swift as a candle being snuffed out. Fuck. He needed a fix. Badly. 

“Bathroom’s here, help yourself,” he told Mac, pulling up at its door on the first floor landing. “The rest of these rooms are just full o’my stuff, really.” 

“Thanks,” Mac nodded, letting himself inside.

Joe shot off as fast a ferret up a trouser leg. His old bedroom was but a few feet away with a very handy on-suite, so he nipped in there sharpish and shut himself in said loo, locking the door behind him. Phew…thank fuck for that. His skin was prickling, as itchy as it was twitchy, his pores weeping sweat. Clammy, cold, sooo cold, as if he’d never feel warm again. Joe hurt. Muscles like clenched fists, guts knotted with need, gnawing on his bones.

Knowing he’d have to be bloody quick about it, Joe shook his shaving bag out into the sink, scrabbled for his stash and sprinkled a ragged line onto the cistern afore hoovering it up with a furled tenner. Thank gawd for that...what a waste, though. No comfy ritual and nary a shiver of anticipation t’boot…he would need more, far sooner, too. Ah well. Needs must when the devil drives and there’s a monkey on y’back…and a McBadass riding pillion.

Aaahh…Joe sank onto the loo seat with a sigh and a rush of relief almost as potent as the smack itself. Surety, as seductive as the surge of euphoria…and the shimmer of serenity that followed in its wake. A quick snifter was on a par with sipping a glass o’shandy when every sense screamed for a tequila slammer but it would have t’do for now. Joe let his head fall back, willing the world away. Wishing himself away to a world where everything made sense, and nothing…much mattered…at all… 

“Jooore!” JoeJoeJoe! Fuckingjunkiesmackhead. “JOR?” Where was he? Scotland? Am I lost…or late? KNOCK KNOCK! Who’s there? Don’t care…just five…more minutes. “Joe, where the hell arya?” He knew that voice…Adam? “JOOORE! F’FUCKSAKES!” Uh-oh. Miffed…someone was always miffed. Oops. “Joe arya in there?” Slap-slappity-slap! “Let me in!” 

“Come in…” Joe sighed. No doubt you’re goin’ too, anyhoo…

“Joe! What yer doin’ in there? Open this bloody door! NOW!” Bash-Bashety-Bash.

“I’m on the looo…” Joe was tooo. Not a fib. No fibbing. That rang a bell. Oh bugger. “Macass?”

“Who the fuck else? Open the goddamn door! Oh, f’chrissakes,” he huffed.

I’ll huff ‘n’ puff and blow your house down. Bangcrashwallop-what-a-picture… Hmm...was too. Delectable. Looks dishevilled…beeedevilled. Mmm…

“Oh Crap… C’mon, git up,” Giddyup…up up up. There he was…Joe’s knight in shiny…boots, stomping in…like the divil himself. Eyes like absinthe set ablaze. As hot as hell. Heaven.

“I’m…on the loo…” Joe noted.

“I hope yer not…” Mac—for ’twas he—growled, grasping Joe’s arm for a tug …tug tug…Joe didn’t seem to be moving much…tooo floppy. “You’ve got yer bloody jeans on.” 

“Oh. So I have. How remissss…”

“Jor, put y’arms roond m’neck.” Mac ordered. Hmm. His Scottish was getting thicker ‘n’ thickeerrrrr. Ooh, t’see him in a wee kilty… 

“Oookay.” A smile smeared itself across Joe’s mouth, dry…sooo dry. Bestir yerself laddie. Mac is miffy. Not whiffy, tho…mmm…whisky warm and woodsy fresh. Uh-oh. Gooin’ up… 

Joe must’ve forgot to lift his arms cos his wrists were shackled by sunkissed cuffs, about a snatched-off breath before he found himself upside doon over strong, broadsword shoulders. The view was subliiime.

“‘Kay…let’s be ‘avin yer…” 

“Yssspleesss…” 

“Y’need yer arse tanning, is what yer need.”

“Promisss…or threat…?“ 

“Oh f’fucksakes…” 

Mac had a one track mind. They’d sent him a sex obsessed deviant. Shockin’ ’twas. Left Joe aaall on his lonesome with the badest-ass mo-fo on earth for his sins. How many deadly ones left? Sloth…? Oops, better stay in bed, then. The sinewy arm clamped around Joe’s thighs sure wouldn’t persuade him otherwise, any time soon. Holding him tight… p’raps all Joe wanted in the whole world…t’be wrapped in strong, sure arms. As safe as safe can be…eternalleee…

“Throw up an’ I’ll kill yer,” Mac-the-knife grunted.

“Would not be a fitting tribute to…baddest ass I e’er did see…” Joe sighed as he watched it wiggle its way downstairs. 

“Fuck off.”

Hmm…Maaac?

“NO.” The bad-ass barked.

“Meanie.”

“Sit there,” Mac instructed, bending to dump Joe in…his armchair. “Do not move. I’m gonnae fetch you a glass of water. Christ, I need a smoke,” he chuntered, stomping off to the kitchen. “Cannae even have a piss in peace…” 

Ooh dear, unfortunate that…

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 5

My Way

 

 

7 Mac

 

Spending time in Joe’s company felt a lot like freefalling through finite reality. To where…? Fucknows.  A realm of infinite probabilities pretty much covered it…and a fair few of those wouldn’t be pretty. A helluva lot like taking an acid tab, in fact. A ticket to the thrillride of your life…or a trip to the pit of Tartarus. With no guarantee of return.

Vince’s assessment of Joe had been more astute than his showboating soundbites gave him credit for. He chews up bodyguards and spits ‘em out like cherry pips… made Joe sound like a caricature from a fuck-awful gangster flick. Rather than someone too raw and real for their own comfort. Or Mac’s. Joe was as lethal as the eyelashes he wielded like the weapons they were; mere feathery frames for les pièces de résistance… Christ, those eyes. Mac would have fared better facing down a jacked-up, machete wielding pimp. He could emerge from that unscathed. 

Whether he would emerge from that bed unscathed was a whole other matter. Mac stood in the doorway, staring at the sea of CD cases, debris, dog-eared notebooks and flea-market trinkets littering the floor. There were bookshelves everywhere, some hosting one random trophy or treasure, others heaving beneath the weight of the ancient hardbacks they held. A shaft of sunlight shone through the small casement window, swirling with dust motes, illuminating the filmy layer coating everything else. Joe must spend most of the time stooping, so he didnae smash his head on the sloping roof. Then fold himself in half to crawl into bed, which was lodged into an alcove. 

A ‘bad-ass’ bastard he might be, but the thought of crawling between those sheets made Mac’s skin do likewise. Upon enquiring about the likelihood of a clean pair, he was informed: ‘No-one’s sullied them, except me, Mr Snarkypants…’

Now that seemed about as probable as Joe declaring a sudden whim to go cold turkey. Yet the miscreant insisted that the bed was a recent installation in the attic he found ‘cosier’ than his former sleeping quarters. Cosier? It was hard to see how Joe could think it cosy. It distinctly lacked the things Mac considered home comforts and hadn’t even housed a bloody bed. So, cosy in what sense? Had this ramshackle room in the eaves of Joe’s stately pile become his safe haven from the world? Mac had presumed that the property itself served this purpose, but the longer he stood, absorbing his surroundings, the more certain it seemed that Joe spent most of his time holed up here. Alone. 

Mac couldnae see any evidence that anyone else had ever stepped foot in the attic, except himself and his bloody great Chelsea boots, stomping about in Joe’s beloved sanctuary.  And yet…he’d chosen to bring Mac up here, rather than his (recently vacated) former bedroom, leaving Mac none the wiser. Why? Instinct, because Joe was a creature of habit? Surely instinct would compel Joe to protect his safe place from the ‘bad-ass’ he was being forced to endure? 

In this, and pretty much everything else Mac had encountered since crossing the threshold, the workings of that brilliant brain were indecipherable. Mac’s insistence that Joe was far too good at being himself proved the one point it found too perplexing to fathom.

“I can’t make up my mind if you think that’s a good thing, or a bad one…” 

Nor could Mac…because it was both. Neither. ‘Deadly’ would do.

It would also prompt questions too perilous to invite…but  Mac had demanded honesty, so it would be a wee bit hypocritical to lie in order to cover his own ass. Particularly when his answer seemed to matter to those eyes. Darker than ever with self-doubt; deep enough to drown him. Too big a burden to shoulder, standing centre stage, alone. Vulnerable.

Mac couldn’t bring himself to shrug that aside with a blithe response that meant nothing and was worth less. In that moment, he felt certain that harsh judgement could shatter Joe, crush him beneath Mac’s boot. In stark contrast to the man who didnae seem to give a stuff what Mac made of his home or habits. So, he told the truth…in professional terms. Then, to all intents and purposes, Mac lost the plot…or his mind. Both. 

“With regards to my opinion? You’re a disaster waiting to happen—to yourself—which worries me. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re the most…authentic person I’ve met for longer than I care to remember. Far too beguiling…and quite impossible.

“Thank you…I think. I feel as if I’ve been probed under strobe lighting.” Joe stood, blinking in bewilderment. The proverbial doe-eyed deer in the headlights, writ large. What else…

“I’ve only got two days, not two decades.” Mac smirked. Mostly because that sure as hell beat, ‘oh, if only…’ 

“Pft…I’m an open book. You’re the enigma, Mr McBadass.” Joe narrowed those eyes to spear Mac with squinty scrutiny.

“You don’t need to know anything about me, other than; one, you can trust me and two, I won’t shaft you.” Mac shrugged.

“Literally, or metaphorically?” Joe ‘wondered’ before catching his plump lower lip between his teeth. Strewth.

“Joe, I am here to keep you fucking safe, not fuck you senseless.” 

“Ooh…that’s cruel,” the miscreant pouted, but the brown burned so fiercely it all but blowtorched Mac’s skin. “You could do a spot of multitasking. I’m safe in my bed, am I not? I can’t be busy in there and up to mischief elsewhere, can I?”

“Safe? No. Mischief? I wouldn’t put it past you.” Mac muttered.

No? Ooh, you’re just being a cock-tease now. Cruel too…and rude, t’boot.” Joe huffed.

“Rude? I beg to differ. I rather think it was a backhanded compliment.”

“Hmph. I get into most mischief when I’m bored, Mr McBadass, but…if you think I’d be bored…” Joe trickled off, leaving that dangling in the air like a bloody carrot.

“I am not biting. I’m not a sodding donkey,” Mac snorted.

“S’okay…I’m not a size queen.” Joe winked.

“Oh f’chrissakes…” he groaned. “Fitzgerald, you are a goddamn demon. Quit trying to wind me up and phone a bloody friend if you’re that desperate for a seeing to. I am not here to service you. This really isn’t flattering.” As Mac spoke, he realised just how serious he was; more than he’d supposed before stating as much. “C’mon, get your hungry arse into gear and show me around,” he sighed. “I need a drink…and a smoke.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong, dear sir. My arse has a far more picky appetite than my cock,” Joe informed him with a lofty sniff. “By the way…you still haven’t said no. Just sayin’.” A parting gem tossed over Joe’s shoulder while sauntering to the attic door.

“No.” Mac spat, as Joe skittered off downstairs, a devilish chuckle wafting in his wake.

Wafflish

My Way 4

Hiya…

If you’re reading these words, thank you.❤️ Here are the next two chapters:

 

 

My Way

 

5. Mac

 

 

I hope you’re better at your part of that bargain than me, or we’re done for…After unleashing this travesty of truth, Joe attempted a smile, but the result was sadder than the sigh it came accompanied by. 

How could he possibly think himself inadequate? Joe had somehow managed—in the harsh glare of the media no less—to remain utterly himself. Unsullied by social conditioning; as if all attempts at enforcing its norms had wafted in one ear and out the other. Or, been tuned out as nought but white noise, while Joe pottered on his merry way, unaffected. Uninfected. As intrinsically himself as Mork from Ork or Thomas Jerome Newton. Sans script.

“It’s a bloody tragedy if you believe that, but maybe you do…The truth is, you’re too good at being you. Too good for your own good. That is the problem.” 

The reason it had all gone to shit was simple. The solution was not. Least of all for Joe. While the world might be eager to lap up the lavish gifts and excess of all that was Joe Fitzgerald, it came with caveats he didnae have a hope in hell of fulfilling. Not if it expected him to dial it down a notch or fifty when the proverbial curtain came down. It would have been easier for Joe to hack off a leg or two in a bid to comply. It had taken Mac all of…minutes to discern that attributes deemed ‘extra’ in modern vernacular were baseline Joe. Much to his chagrin, Mac had been forced to consult the urban dictionary to explain why ‘he’s so extra’ was not an (irritatingly) incomplete sentence.

‘Excess’ could only be channeled, or syphoned off, as Mac knew all too well. It couldnae be diluted, nor dissipate into thin air. It could, however, be drowned…or drugged into a state of torpor. For a wee while…until the ‘solution’ became a bigger problem than the one it was supposed to suppress.

“You just told me that all I have to do is be me…and leave the rest to you. But now you’re saying that being me is the problem, which means I must be making a mess of it. That’s a bit befuddling…if I’m ‘the product’ they’re buying, then surely they want me to keep skidding off the rails? The press definitely does, so what are you saying? Carry on having mishaps and I’ll mop up?”

“I clearly haven’t had enough to drink,” Mac groaned. “What I am saying is, all I intend to do, while we’re here, is watch and learn. Baseline observations, if you wish, so I can gauge how best to safeguard your sanity. To do that, I do need to know where your stash is squirrelled away.”  

Joe prickled visibly, hackles rising in affront like a spiky kitten. He didn’t hiss, but he did look rather as if he might arch his back and start spitting. “You’ll have access to it,” Mac assured him, “But I have to know how much you’re taking and when, to work out what you need—to function—and where that tips over into fit-for-fuck-all. So, I want the truth and nothing but. All you have to do is trust me…and I’ll take care of the rest.”

“But you earn trust. That’s not a given—or a right—is it?” Joe pointed out.  

“I concur…but I dinnea have time.” Mac sighed. “So, we’ll have to work backwards; you can retract your trust if I screw you over. What d’you have to lose? You have two days to decide if you cannae trust me. What would be the point in cutting you off, when I know damn well that there’ll still be a stash secreted elsehere?” An observation that was greeted by the tip of Joe’s tongue. “I’ll bite that off, if I see it again.” Mac stated, matter-of-factly.

“You would too, methinks,” the miscreant chuckled.

“Damn straight I would. Joe, they might be footing the bill, but this is about you. Not them. I dinnae a flying fuck what they want. But I do want you to be able to fulfill what’s already been booked. For your own pride, if nothing else. I intend to see Adam, to put a freeze on whatever the hell else they have planned…until I know exactly what you want. Right, speech over. This bag is for the kitchen…I dinnae know whether you had anything edible and I sure as shit wasn’t going without. The second one has all my gear in it—that can go in the bedroom—I need a drink.”

Joe blinked. Several times. “Crikey…You don’t ’alf chunter when you get going…and become more Scottish, t’boot. D’you want your drink before, or after, you dump your bags?”

“I wasnae thinking in terms of choice,” Mac muttered.

“Well I hope you’ve got some whisky in there, cos you’ll have cleaned me out by bedtime, Mr MacBadass.”

“I do indeed. There’s no ‘A’ in that, by the way.”

“I beg your parsnips?” Joe frowned in puzzlement.

“In the ‘Mc’.” 

“Sorry, I shall beg them again then, for any cultural offence caused. There’s a wee flaw in your cunning plan though, Mr Mc.”

“And that would be..?”  This was the most stupid question that had ever crossed Mac’s lips. There was no flaw, wee or otherwise. 

“What about if I need a shag?” Joe pouted.

Exactly.

“We’re heading back to London on Monday, f’fucksakes,” Mac rolled his eyes. As if in exasperation.

“I’m not going to last that long,” Joe protested.

“Phone a friend.” Mac shrugged.

“But you’re kipping in my room! Perv!” Joe actually had the brass neck to gape in ‘shock’.

“I really hope you’re not trying to suggest you’ve never shagged on the bus, backstage or in the bogs…” Mac smirked as a headline flashed through his head: ‘Junkie Joe’s portaloo passion! Read all about it in your super soaraway Sun!’

“Noo I’m not…but that’s beside the point,” Joe sniffed. “I can’t phone a friend and say: D’you fancy a shag? Oh, by the way…have you met my McBadass?

“Well, that’s up to you, if it doesnae suit, you have a wrist. You’ll have to make do.” 

“Hmph. By the way, you haven’t said ‘no’. Just sayin’…” 

“Do I look like rent-a-cock? Don’t answer that.” Mac added sharpish, when midnight eyes sparkled with mischief.

“Spoilsport. Not even if I’m succinct?”

“I’ll give you succinct in a minute,” Mac grunted.

“I wish you would. That would do for starters.” Joe grinned.

“So would a melon boat,” he retorted.

“Can I have an orange sail slice on a cocktail stick? With a cherry on top…or has that ship long since sai—?” 

“Joe.” Mac growled, cutting him off with a withering glare. Before it became impossible to rustle one up. “I am going to gag you, if you don’t put a sock in it.

“Oookay…” came the sing-song reply as Joe meandered over to the drinks globe. “I shall not dignify that with the answer it deserves. Here you go…” he snickered, extending the bottle of whisky Mac’s way. “It’s a waste of time giving you a glass when, despite all indications to the contrary, you are clearly unfamiliar with the term ‘a wee dram’. So you might as well just guzzle away…” 

When Mac closed his fingers around the neck of the bottle they brushed Joe’s skin; it was all he could do not to suck in a sharp breath. Fuck. He’d never felt more grateful for being olive skinned in his life. Mac didnae have a hope in hell of schooling his features into indifference, so he kept his head down while muttering his thanks.

Their chances of making it to Monday without wheeling in the dessert-trolley were well below the waterline. Making it to the bloody bedroom would require navigating uncharted waters of restraint—for which Joe patently possessed no compass whatsoever—leaving Mac to steer the melon boat. Fair enough, that was his forte…but the cherry on top was not on the table.

 

***

 

 

6  Joe

 

Joe passed Mac the bottle of whisky…and damn near dropped it when their fingers brushed. Brushed? It was akin to being branded. The shock of skin contact sizzled up his arm like a spark scarfing a trail of dynamite with a hotline to his cock. It was staggering, not least when (truth being the order of the day an’ all) Joe had found himself feeling far less…well, anything for months. As a result of too much what, he wasn’t sure; there were a fair few ‘whats’ to consider. 

Pinpointing the culprit in an ever spiralling cocktail of smack, crack, coke, rum, men, women, wine ’n’ insomnia was a tad tricky. The cause could be cumulative…or singular. Joe had knocked the crack on the head of late, at least. It may have made him a tad um, testy…but sure hadn’t shot his synapses to shit. So, if there was a particular perp responsible for his maladies, Joe didn’t want to know. Suspecting that he knew all too well. Sod’s law, wasn’t it…? The one he could least live without. Even if it killed him. 

Demon supression must be a helluva lot harder to pull off than sedating a few sensory receptors, after all. While Joe could function just fine, he’d scarce felt a thrill of fuck-all for…his cock couldn’t care less. With one exception: the less his nerve endings reacted to stimuli, the greater its appetite grew. The upshot of all this was, Joe needed more of everything, to feel less of anything. At all. This going-nowhere-fast stream of (far too) consciousness must have had a point in the first place, but the plot had got lost along the way. Ah yes…the McBadass and his sensation(al) superpowers. It was all Joe could do to keep his grip on the bottle until it was safely in Mac’s magical mitts. His litany of torture tactics was longer than the list of things-not-to-think about. In addition to trying to sleep beside the baddest-ass-on-earth, he’d be tucked up in bed with Taserman. (In his own defence, Shocker was already taken).

The sizzle was so scorching it seemed impossible that Joe felt it all on his lonesome. Logic, oft reluctant to pop in for a visit, pointed out that Mac’s blood might be 70% proof, but wasn’t likely to send sniffer dogs into a frenzy any time soon. Nevertheless, if logic cared to muse upon the matter for a mo, then Joe’s toxicity levels hadn’t mustered so much as a fizzle of late. There was no telling whether his bad-ass had been stirred in the slightest, let alone been shaken like a can of Irn Bru. Mac’s head was dipped, fringe flopping forwards, and about all Joe could glean was the fact his socks seemed more interesting than his face. While they were red, and thus quite eye-catching, they still looked a lot like red socks, which could undoubtedly be noted in a nanosecond. 

Joe’s brain felt fit to blow—the light too bright, sound too sharp—so he scrunched his eyes tight, which didn’t help. The glare was more intense inside his head; louder too, with his lids shut.

“Y’okay?” Mac’s Black Velvet voice was tinged with concern.

“Yeah…my head hurts, s’nothing,” Joe assured him, mustering a careless shrug ’n’ smile. 

“Y’sure?” 

“Yup. Shall we go and dump your stuff in my room first, then I’ll show you around?”

“Okay…” Mac regarded him with a squinty scrutiny, then nodded his consent and snagged one of the holdalls to follow Joe upstairs.

“I’ve been kipping in the attic, so we may as well head up there and work our way down. If it’s a tad cluttery for your exacting standards…I didn’t anticipate sharing it,” Joe pointed out, pushing the door open. “It could’ve been worse…?” he offered, when the Bad-ass simply stood in the doorway. Blinking. A bit. 

“Er, it’s very…charming. In a bombed-out wartime thrift-shop sort of way.” Mac’s lips twitched, despite his deadpan delivery. 

“Damn cheek. It’s shabby chic, that. Or thereabouts,” Joe added a sniff of affront he far from felt. 

Whereabouts should I dump my bag, is more to the point?” Mac smirked. It was a good question, it must be admitted. The floor was p’raps a bit…busy.

“On the bed?”

“I really hope you have some clean sheets,” Mac commented—snippily—while tossing his holdall onto it.

“No-one’s sullied them, except me, Mr Snarkypants.” 

“A likely story.” Mac scoffed.

“But still true. I could even add ever, if y’like. I slept in one of the bedrooms at first…but it’s cosier up here, so I kept waking in that chair. I didn’t get round to ordering the bed ‘til a few weeks ago and I’ve mostly been in London, since then. Besides, you told me to be honest. Why should I bother, if you’re not even going to believe me about something so daft?”

“Fair point.” Mac admitted, scrutinising Joe with another squinty stare before twitching his head in an almost imperceptible nod. 

“Thank you muchly. So, do we need to go shopping?”

“For what?” Mac frowned.

“Sheets? Do keep up.” Joe sighed.

Keep up? I’d need to imbibe a bucket of coke.”

“I hope you’ve got some stashed in your bag with your whisky then. I’m starting to feel like a moderate man.”

Mac spluttered, throwing his head back with unbridled glee. It was undoubtedly the most staggering thing he’d done thus far. He’d come swishing in, as cool as fuck with his flinty glint, dripping control freakery and pithy wit. Joe had never guessed that the bad-ass could let rip with such gay abandon.

On that particular subject… ‘Can I have a slice of orange sail on a cocktail stick? With a cherry on top…or has that ship already?’ Joe’s attempt to root out this pertinent bit of info had been rudely interrupted thus: ‘I am going to gag you, if you don’t put a sock in it’. 

Was Mac was sooo straight that the very notion was an affront to his personage…or… had Joe cut too close to the bone for bad-ass comfort? It was tricky to tell, Joe’s gaydar had run amok…alongside the rest of his sensory receptors. While there was a certain je ne sais quoi lacing Mac’s louche elegance, that predatory grace could originate in the martial art he practised. P’raps fencing, too? It wouldn’t surprise Joe in the slightest if Mac wielded a sword with much the finesse of those hips when he swished. ‘Walk’ being a woeful verb for the melody of movement that was Mac. 

“When you’ve quite finished yukking it up, Mr McBadass…you still haven’t answered my question, which seems to be a bit of a habit. Do we have to pop to the shops, or not?”

“No…these’ll do fine. I just didn’t fancy lying in every Tom, Dick and Harriet’s body fluids, thank you very much.”

“That’s rather presumptuous of you,” Joe sniffed.

“‘Presumptuous’ would suggest that your sex life hasn’t been exhaustively documented, surely?” Mac snorted.

“Dagnabbity papers. You shouldn’t believe everything you read, y’know,” Joe huffed. 

“You’ve point blank stated that your appetite cannae hold out until Monday. Then noted that I haven’t said ‘no’ should you feel disinclined to a spot of DIY. I think it’s safe to say that covers all my ‘presumptions’, don’t you?”

“Bugger. Hoisted by my own petard,” Joe p’raps pouted.

“I couldnae have put it better myself,” Mac grinned. “I’d be willing to wager you don’t stint yourself on that front either.”

“Sadly, you’re right. I insert my foot everytime I open my mouth…particularly in print,” Joe winced.

“You’re journalistic gold. Even if they weren’t accustomed to being bored shitless by ‘celebrities’ who’ve had media training in the art of saying fuck-all worth hearing. Like I said, you’re far too good at being you.”

“I can’t decide if you think that’s a good thing or bad,” Joe admitted.

“That’s because the answer is subjective. You’re too you for your own welfare. The repercussions are…perilous. In professional terms, it depends whether you believe that all publicity is good publicity. I don’t…even before factoring in its cumulative effect. With regards to my opinion…”

This was the part Joe wanted to hear most. The press part was Mac’s snapshot of life lived in the media. 

“You’re a disaster waiting to happen—to yourself—which worries me. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re the most…authentic person I’ve met for longer than I care to remember.” Laser beam greens narrowed, zoning in for the kill. Uh-oh. “Far too beguiling…and quite impossible.”

What? Did I hear wrong? Beguiling…? It might mean charming, even enchanting, but that tends to be in a Loki-like way; tricksy…a beguiling bastard. ‘Far too…?’ For what? How? Why? About a trillion questions ricocheted ’round Joe’s head like ping-pong balls. ‘Impossible’ was a bit of a no brainer, though.

“Thank you…I think. I feel as if I’ve been probed under strobe lighting.” Joe blinked, a bit bedazzled. 

“I’ve only got two days, not two decades,” the scoundrel snorted. “C’mon…let the tour commence. I need the loo. And a drink.”

Yessir. Strewth, Joe was starting to suspect that twenty years of being probed and bossed by his bad-ass mightnae be long enough at all…

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 3

 

My Way

 

 

4 Joe

 

“Joe, I’m not here to fuck you over. If you’re straight up with me, I’ll keep them off your back as much as I can…but that works both ways. If you’re dead set on fucking me over, then there’s no point… ”

 

Well, that was a turn up for the books. Mac-the-knife was proving to be the most mind-boggling scoundrel who’d ever set foot through the front door. Joe didn’t know quite what to make of him. When Adam announced that they’d procured the meanest mo-fo on earth (or thereabouts) to dog Joe’s days ‘n’ nights, he thought he’d find himself landed with pug-faced pugilist, fond of folding his arms to show off his bulging biceps. Fluent only in grunts ‘n’ glowers. JustMac was so far from this caricature, Joe had been left scrambling to superimpose the strangely elegant, but deadly dangerous reality, atop it. 

Joe had expected to be stuck living with the enemy, not shacked up with a sadistic sex-god who’d promised to keep the bastards off Joe’s back…if he played ball. The list of things-not-to-think was fast assuming printer-spewing proportions. Ah well, with a bit o’luck, Joe’s brain would be kept too busy scuttling Mac-hiavellian machinations to cook up catastrophes with quite such dedication to the cause. 

Mac clearly kept his cards so close his chest they were secreted beneath sunkissed skin, so Joe decided that his best bet would be to ‘play ball’ until he’d had a bit of a forage. A sentence destined for the top of Joe’s list if e’er there was one. The craving was something chronic, gnawing his guts with steel-trap tenacity but Joe was strangely reluctant to cave in with the stakes so high. Clarity had never held quite such a potent hand…

 “’Kay. D’you want another drink?” Joe asked, because Just(partial-to-a-wee-dram-or-three)Mac had knocked back the first two as if it was closing time at the last-chance saloon.

Okay? That’s it?” The scoundrel looked a smidge staggered…even a bit disappointed. Had the bad-ass had been spoiling for a spot of sparring? Or, just partial to pressing buttons as foreplay to polishing off the resulting ruckus with his knuckle dusters? JustMac would have to hold his horses, at least till after the weighing-in. Meanwhile, Joe wanted to watch those glinty greens at work so…’twas time to don his tour guide hat. 

“Should I show you around, so you know where everything is? You can choose a room to put your stuff in and—” He stopped short when Mac speared him with an expression as incredulous as if Joe had switched to Klingon, mid-sentence. “What’s that face for?” 

“You seriously think I intend to leave you to your own devices overnight?”  

Yeeesss actually…I’d been counting on it.  

It was more than a mite obvious where Mac intended to kip, the presumptive scoundrel, but still, Joe pressed on. Curious to discover if he’d have the decency to ask—even as a pretence to treating Joe like a hooman—as opposed to a junkie who’d traded his right to privacy for a baggie of smack.  

Mac did not, just pointed out that Joe had answered the door so scantily clad he couldn’t claim to be Mr Prissypants, or something such. Mac-the-knife did have a point, but blimey...sleep in my room? If Joe thought for a second that there were nefarious designs on his person afoot, then he’d roll out the red carpet…but that was about as likely as Mac having a rubber duckie in his bath.

“’Tis customary to ask before you go inviting yourself into someone’s bed, Mr Cocky pants.” Joe attempted a lofty sniff. As it prob’ly only qualified in the literal sense, he’d never been as glad to be so bloody tall. Mac was…a shade under six foot? But built like…oops, the rest o’that is heading nowhere but the list any time soon… Shaw. Rather than Hobbs, that would do. The McBadass might not be a towering man-mountain of muscle but the reality felt somehow more lethal. Mac-the-knife was a lean, mean, fighting machine, as sharp and finely-honed as his moniker. Oh help.

“To Sleep.” Mac clarified. Emphatically. Bugger. Or not.

“Sadist.” Joe huffed. Instead of the pithy retort he’d been expecting, Mac just scorched his retinas with Kryptonite green before turning to…Strewwth. 

 Joe stood, staring—eyes pinned wide ’nuff to plop on the parquet—as Mac swished off to fetch his stuff. Oh, for a remote control button to rewind and re-view that. In slo-mo, cos Joe’s mo-fo had the baddest-ass on the planet. I have to watch that wiggle its way ’round the house for two whole days? This was taking cruel and unusual punishments to previously unscaled altitudes. Watch it wiggle? It was going to be snug as a bug in Joe’s bloomin’ bed. 

Someone was having a larf. At Joe’s expense. Well, not literally, because the record company was footing Mac’s mega-bill, but really… If they’d decided to exact revenge for past misdemeanors and mishaps, they couldn’t have rustled up a better plot if they’d had Kafka on board. 

The piranha baggies were starting to look a lot like a jolly jape in comparison. I have to sleep in the same bed as that butt? As if that wasn’t painfully hard enough, said rear was residing on a glinty-eyed sex-god carved from Scottish granite and drizzled in runny honey. 

Skag? It would take a sledgehammer to knock Joe out under such duress. Behopes the McBadass had one in his boot—and some bromide—or it would be a veerry long night. This was torture so extreme it would make Joe’s stint in Thai Rehab feel like bloody Butlins.

P’raps he should sleep in his chair instead. Joe had done just that for a few months, before he got around to buying a bed. As he p’raps tended to forget stuff he didn’t want to remember, chances were he’d flinched from such a…commitment to the house. He’d been too spooked to admit he’d found somewhere he felt…a tentative sort of (inconcevable) calm. Shimmering in the air, settling around him. Soothing the clawing ache that  clutched at Joe’s chest. A glimmer of impossible peace, hovering on his horizon, if he could just… Joe had never been able to finish that thought. P’raps…one day, he might not need to. He would just know. Know he’d found it.

After three months kipping in his chair, Joe was half-crippled so he surrendered to the inevitable and ordered a bloody bed. By which point, he was so enamoured with his bolt-hole hideaway, they pretty much had to prise Joe out ‘n’ about with a crowbar. It was the best of both worlds, he had the idyll he’d always dreamed of but there was plenty o’room to invite a few folks ’round for a soirée. A far less risky prospect than venturing out to feed the press some lurid headlines. Again.

Sleep in my chair? Joe would have to be stark, staring mad to turn down the opportunity to snuggle up to his McBadass. As safe as safe can be. Whether he actually survived the experience sane? Was a whole other kettle of kippers…

“Blimey, are you stocking up for a siege…?” Joe gaped, when Mac returned a few minutes later toting two bulging black holdalls. “Or, is one for clothes and one for your torture kit?”

“Oh, I didn’t think I’d need clothes. We’re heading back to London on Monday, don’t forget.” Shrugged with deadpan élan to die for, while kicking the door shut behind him. 

“Hmph…a likely story.” Joe sniffed. “If I’d known you’d come to play Santa, I would have offered you a mince pie and glass of sherry.” 

“S’kay, I’d rather have scotch. Now, where d’you want me to put these? I’d hate to clutter up the place…” Mac smirked. Oooh.

“Are you casting aspersions on my housewifery?” Joe sniffed, shooting him a squinty side-eye.

“No. I’m saying it looks like a bloody bomb’s gone off.” 

“It’s homely,” he huffed. “Besides, I might’ve tidied up, if I’d invited anyone to come and stay.”

“You’re lying.” Mac fixed him with the flinty glint that felt like being X-rayed.

“Well, I would have intended to,” Joe amended. “’Tis the thought that counts. Bring them upstairs then, if you must be so par-tic-ular about it. I may as well show you ’round…” He was turning to lead the way when one word stopped him in his tracks. 

“Joe?” Whisky warm, Mac’s voice had lowered to lethal purr; as hot as hell and too persuasive to ignore. 

“Yeah?” Steeling himself, Joe swivelled on his heel, turning toward Mac. 

“I’m not here to torture you.” Mac ensnared Joe’s eyes with a green as insidious as absinthe. “I am not your enemy…you can trust me. All you need do, is be you…and leave the rest to me, ’kay?”

How Joe wished he could let himself believe Mac. Beset by paranoid suspicions he might be, but he’d have to be downright demented to allow himself that luxury. Joe knew all too well what was rocket fuelling such fears but they still had very real foundations. It seemed that everyone he’d trusted to take care of stuff that felt like falling face first into a nettle patch…were somehow those who’d become most hell-bent on shoving him into it. 

The only time Joe could secure any sense of comfiness was the early hours of morning, when those first slivers of dawn stole the darkness away. Pottering about as he pleased, weaving words and melodies, adrift in blissful solitude. Wishing he could stay forever suspended in that hazy half-light, lazy with promise of an impossible peace.

“ Well, I hope you’re better at your part of that bargain than me, or we’re done for…” Joe stretched his lips into a smile best described as creaky.

“It’s a bloody tragedy if you really believe that, but maybe you do…” Mac sighed, raking a hand through the fronds of fringe flopping over laser beam green. “The truth is, you’re too good at being you. Too good for your own good. That is the problem.

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 2

Hiya,

Without further ado, here are the next two…

 

My Way

2.  Joe

 

 

Joe was mooching about in the attic when he heard the rap on the door he’d been dreading. Perhaps he should be out. If Joe was out, then he couldn’t reasonably be expected to answer it, not even by unreasonable folk who dispatched bad-ass babysitters to jackboot him up the bum. Joe was way beyond bored of being read the riot act and told that he could not and should not. If he’d fancied a life like that, then he would’ve signed up for the forces and followed in his dad’s footsteps. Rather than make Major Fitzgerald RM wish it were possible to rescind his sperm donation, instead. 

After shoving that thought to the back of his mind to fester like a brain tumour—as was its wont—Joe turned his attention back to the rat-a-tatting. Pottering about in his pants would no doubt be deemed most remiss, so Joe had headed for his hideyhole to get dressed before the arrival of a Mr Mac. Sent by the Powers That Be (pissed off-a-lot) to drive Joe demented. He’d no doubt hunt Joe down like a dog if he did a runner, so he might as well answer the door, seeing as he was indeed in, and even if he was out, he’d have to be in, eventually. Mr Mac wasn’t a quitter. Apparently. Unlike Joe’s previous bovver-booted bodyguards whose professional pride had been so susceptible to affront, merely by slipping his leash. Who knew? It was with a much-miffed huff that Joe shoved the attic window open and poked his head out to peer down at the latest installment as his serial killer of joys. 

Crikey.  He’d expected Mr Mac to be pacing about impatiently, unaware of being observed, but Joe found himself all-but tasered by twin glints of green. A green so gorgeous, its focus so absolute it was startling from two floors up. Those eyes could probably see round corners. If it was ‘just’ the laser intensity of that stare , then Joe might’ve had a hope in hell of cobbling a few brain cells together. But nope, its emerald gleam was set in a face gifted with such godly bone structure, Mac should by rights, be cast in bronze and positioned in pride of place beside the birdbath. 

Joe scrunched his eyes up tight. Then opened them again. Still there. P’raps he’d hallucinated his own Mr Mac in a stealth attack of toxicless-shock-syndrome? Adam had sat sentry all night and only left half-hour ago, after sand-blasting Joe with a tirade about bad-ass babysitters and last-chance saloons. Thus, Joe was feeling far too fit-as-a-fiddle for his own comfort. If this particular Mr Mac was real, then he would speak, would he not? 

Okay… If I greet him and he replies: you had me from hello… then ‘Mac’ is a miraculous mirage. If he says anything else whatsoever, then he’s a real, live hooman. Sorted.

“Hiya…”

“Joe?”

Dammit. Wrong answer. Was that a good or a bad thing? Was it preferable to have an imaginary bad-ass who lusted after Joe’s…or a living, breathing one come to whip it into shape?

“Yesss…to whom am I speaking?” he asked, adopting his best lord of the manor tones. 

“I’m Mac.”

Yup. It was Mr Mac-the-knife wielding Mafioso himself. He sure looked the part. That honeyed skin hailed from far closer to Scicily than Scotland, despite his moniker and Mac’s pronunciation of it. He wasn’t a jot like the Kray cronie Joe expected when told he was about to meet the inescapable agent of his doom. Adam actually said ‘nemesis’ but its definition was too devilish a delight to deny himself. Particularly when it coincided with being denied more than he could endure and stay sane. Or wish to. 

Mac was as far from a Mockney geezer straight from the set of a Guy Ritchie movie it was possible to imagine. He was far too…sleek. He was a panther not a pit-bull…about as far from Vinnie Jones as it was possible to rustle up. Mac oozed lethal elegance. He even stood with a still, watchful grace as deadly as it was…delicious.

Mac was, quite clearly, the ‘real deal’ Adam had promised. Secured at great expense by Joe’s record company, no less, in the wake of one too many ‘tired and emotional’ no-shows and less than loquacious appearances here ‘n’ there. Enter Mac-the-Knife, sent to shove his size…tens(?) up Joe’s butt and whip it into shape. There was so much wrong (but oh, so right) with that sentence Joe would be best advised not to think of shoe sizes (or their inferences), shoved anywhere (whatsoever) and go down (oh dear) to let Mr Mac in (ditto). 

Joe was so distracted by not-thinking such thoughts, he tripped over a runaway skateboard and damn near met (the harbinger of) his doom by barrelling head-first through the front door. Which meant that Joe also had to not think about barge-poles. At all.

Ugh...Joe hated being (comparatively) compos mentis, it felt akin to having a hive of hornets in his head. An incessant buzz of stinging truths and scything self assessment… no matter how hard Joe tried to drown—no—nothing worked that well: damp down the demons enough to believe. Believe in the very thing that had always been as natural to Joe as breathing. Before. It became a…commodity. Now? He could scarce string three words together or rustle up a riff that wasn’t as trite as it was turgid.

The problem was, Joe would happen on a miracle that did diminish the onslaught of self-doubt and carping criticism. Then find himself flying as high as a kite once more on rhythm and rhyme, feverishly writing reams of poetry as cascades of notes flitted through his thoughts. As free as his fingers across strings, caressing keys, coaxing melody from mayhem as words tumbled from his lips. ‘Til the fear came flooding back with a vengeance….which left Joe with little option but morein ever spiralling amountsor find a fresh source of blissful oblivion. Joe was fast running out. Of everything. Sources. Lives. Chances. Everyone’s patience. 

Enter Mac-the-Knife. A shark shrink-wrapped in a fitted shirt, snowy sleeves rolled back to reveal sinewy forearms and an incongruous slash of scarlet bound around his right wrist. He was a shock of sharp contrasts, all clean lines and crisp tailoring that clung to sunkissed skin as warm as his russet brown hair. Buzzed in an undercut with rogue tendrils that flopped over those flinty glints of green. All of which was so discombobulating, Joe found himself admitting that Mac was far from the man he’d dreaded. Out loud.

“What were you expecting?” Mac asked as he stepped into the hallway

 Joe might’ve mooted a bulldog chewing a wasp. Or Butch from Tom and Jerry. Same difference. In his own defence, neither Kray twin put in an appearance. Nor Jack the Hat McVitie…which was a bit of a McMiracle, all things considered.

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Mac muttered vaguely, laser gaze blazing everywhere, all at once. Quite possibly checking every nook and cranny for secret stashes with X-ray vision… now there was a thought. Oh dear...Joe was all out of rubber gloves…

“Disappoint?” Joe figured that he’d better appear to ponder this, rather than state outright how very un—whatever the antonym for disappointed was—he was. Chuffed to bits, that would do. As would Mac. Very nicely indeed, thank you muchly. “Nope. I find myself strangely amenable to the whole ‘whipping me into shape’ idea.”

P’raps the vicar’s wife had a spare crop she could lend him. 

It was roundabout then that the holy grail of revelations dropped on Joe’s head. His marbles were so scattered may have mixed his metaphors but no matter: 

If Mac’s presence was supposed to dissuade Joe from overindulging here ’n’ there, then the bright spark responsible for that cunning plan was patently in need of psychiatric assistance. If Joe set off on the long ‘n’ snakey road to sobriety then…he wouldn’t need a bad-ass to guard his body, would he? Duh.

“It’s just Mac.” Stated firmly (double ditto) with a flinty glint. Uh-oh. It seemed that JustMac was not partial to being suffixed.  It was too late now, Joe couldn’t unthink it, he wasn’t stoned enough. Hence his head wouldn’t shut up at all…and he found himself unleashing all sorts of nonsense and the vicar’s wife, before segueing straight into crockpots and paddling therein.

 Somewhere amidst all this superfluity, Joe discovered that the walking oxymoron that was JustMac wasn’t the green-algae aficionado he’d feared. Things were looking up. In more ways than one. A fact so obvious that Joe figured he’d better take himself off and slip into something far less comfy but a bit less…lurid. It was a bloomin’ good job the bad-ass had been too busy stash-scouting to peruse Joe’s person. At least his boxers were black—which was far more forgiving than his favourite red undercrackers—but blimey, it was very hard to conduct a chat under such circumstances.

 

***

 

 

3.  Mac

 

Mac tossed back his tumbler of whisky before tugging his cigarettes from the pocket of his leather and sinking into a comfortable armchair beside the fireplace. Despite being the embodiment of his billing, Joe Fitzgerald far from met Mac’s expectations. He couldnae quite put his finger on why, when it made no sense to suggest that Joe fit his description yet defied its very essence. 

Just as contradictory was the fact that all Joe Fitzgerald wasn’t made him so…utterly what he was. While he was every bit as charming as Mac had been promised, he’d presumed that would be mere showbiz artifice. A cultivated charisma about as shallow as a coke spoon. Fake, like so many of Joe’s ilk, with a glossy veneer about as genuine as their teeth. Far less forgivable was the fact they were as tedious as fuck, which was why  Mac had given Vince such a hard time. He’d rather wade through a cesspit than work the red carpet. The stench was more sincere.

Unless Joe was the best faker Mac had ever met, he was far too authentic for his own welfare. It was a miracle he’d survived himself, let alone a life in the music business. Safeguarding Joe’s future in it would make Mac worth every penny the record company paid up. Thwarting his determination to destroy Joe Fitzgerald—in one way or another—would be a far more brutal battle. One Mac fully intended to win, by means fair or foul. Breaking all the rules…even his own. 

That incorrigible charm might make Joe’s star shine all the brighter, but Mac had not expected to find him so…engaging. Warm. Real. While he undoubtedly wielded those eyes as the weapon they were, the monster was so shameless about it, it was damn near impossible to take umbrage. It didn’t help that those intent on tethering Joe to his talent, rather than proclivities, were undoubtedly complicit in using the latter as leverage. Doling them out like dog chocs to bring Joe to heel and rewarding him for ‘good’ behaviour, if he played ball. They knew damn well that they couldnae control him any other way—he was too talented, too clever and could clearly outfox them—which made this entire shitstorm horribly inevitable.

Mac’s remit was not to get Joe off drugs. It was to get him there (wherever that happened to be), in a fit state to fulfil his ‘obligations’. Able to function.

Joe Fitzgerald was very obviously functioning today. All of him. The evidence tugging Mac’s attention to this fact made following Joe’s bullet train of thought a feat in itself…let alone while suffering an acute case of cripple cock. This gig was doomed to disaster before it began. Mac should walk away without a backward glance and tell Vince to book some other bugger to guard Joe’s body. Bodyguard Joe. The miscreant had one hell of an advantage; his reputation was already shot to shit. Mac’s was on the line. The very line Mr Fitzgerald could never bloody walk.

Mac had just lit a second cigarette when the clink of a bottle against glass filtered through this fog of thoughts. Joe soon reappeared, clutching two tumblers, one of scotch and the other a shade that suggested rum. He was, thankfully, wearing clothes: black jeans with a red and black striped top, scarlet socks. Dennis the Menace on stilts, after switching the shampoo for a bottle of bleach…then forgetting that fact.

“Are you off in a minute?” Joe asked as he handed Mac the glass of whisky.

“Off?”

“You look as if you’ve made up your mind to leave and are planning an exit strategy.” His soft voice sounded uncertain, rather than hopeful, which was…unexpected. Quite why Mac had focused on this when Joe had just intuited all of that in three seconds flat was almost as perplexing. No one had been able to get a read on Mac for a long time, his life depended on it. So, he’d strived to eradicate every single tell as if it was an unsightly stain on a blank wall.

“Your safety could count on the latter. ” That wasn’t a lie, at least. “Just a reflex, if y’like. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me…” Mac shrugged.

“I don’t mind being stuck with you. If I’ve got to have someone, I’m glad it’s you. So, JustMac, what can’t I do?” Joe asked, folding his far too lavish self into the opposite chair. 

“It’s not about what you cannae do. It’s about what you will do.” Mac stated, as fact.

“…And what will I do?” His pincushion lips twerked; as incorrigible as the rest of him. 

“Everything in your diary.” 

“What if I’m…?” Joe paused, rolling his eyes top right while pondering the perfect get out clause. There wasnae one. “‘What if’ nothing. You could Section yourself, I guess, but that would somewhat defeat your objective,” Mac snorted. “Joe, I’m not your bloody gaoler and I’m sure as hell no babysitter. But you will do what’s in that diary, even if I have to knock you out and carry you to the car, or cuff you to make certain of it.”

Oooh…” Joe’s doe eyes widened still further. They were…exceptional. The deepest shade of brown before black, bewitching in themselves, otherwordly alongside milk-white skin and white-blond hair.

 “Not in a fun way.” Mac retorted.

“Party pooper.” Sticking Joe to the window with that pout might prove the answer to all manner of problems. “That’s just cruel.”

“A trait that was never in doubt…so your point is?” Mac arched an ironic brow.

“They didn’t tell me you were a sadist, t’boot.” Joe chuntered.

“How very remiss of them.” 

“It was. This is torture. First off, you come slinking in with your granite jaw and glinty-greens, then start waving your cuffs about. You’ll be wheeling in a tank of piranhas next, with baggies of smack floating in it.”

“Not till tomorrow when you’re chewing the carpet.” Mac smirked. Strewth, he’d only been here half-hour and was fast turning into a pantomime villain. All he needed was a moustache to twirl and he’d be sorted. Slinking?

“Humph. I’ll go insane. They’ll be carting me off in a straitjacket before Monday. I won’t be able to do my diary then, will I?” Joe huffed.

“That’s up to you, it’s your choice. Locked up on your lonesome in a rubber room. Or put the fuck up with me.” 

“Can I have a pick ‘n’ mix of those choices?” Joe wondered ‘airily’. 

“Do I look like a confectionary counter?” Mac spluttered.

“Literally? No. It’s more like window shopping at S&M-R-US. Will I get rewards for good behaviour?” Joe beamed, all eyes and teeth, glittering with mischief. 

“Yup.” Mac inhaled and blew a long stream of smoke ceilingward before adding; “Your career.”

“Ooh, that was evil.” Joe humphed.

“If the cap fits…” Another shrug. “But isn’t that what you want? Or, thought you wanted?” Mac asked, allowing the harsh Glaswegian accent he’d adopted to fall away and soften to his native Edinburgh burr for the first time. 

“Well…yes. Sort of.” Joe sighed, lifting his feet off the floor to plant them on the seat and rest his chin on top of his bent knees. “I just wanted to write songs and play them to people. I did want to be famous…cos that’s how it works, isn’t it? I couldn’t do this if no-one cared whether I did or not, or came to gigs…but I didn’t expect it to be…like this. I thought I’d be able to potter along, writing, playing…but I can’t. That’s all anyone ever says, too: ‘You can’t‘. It’s like being devoured by a massive shredding machine that wants to spit out stuff.  I want to write and play, sing songs that mean something to peoplethat matternot be a product on a production line spewing out pretty melodies. I know that sounds stupid and ungrateful

“It doesn’t…” Mac interrupted. Not from those lips, at least. It was pure, impossible, idealism, tumbling forth in sing-song tones as alluring as a lullaby. The cadence of Joe’s voice seemed to smooth Mac’s sharp edges, much like the accent he’d affected. He’d begun to feel as if he’d stepped through some sort of portal when he’d crossed the threshold. A world where Joe dreamed impossible dreams and made them seem plausible by dint of believing them into being. Or Mac had lost the sodding plot. Either way, it was now blatantly apparent why the wheels of the tour bus had come off in such spectacular style. 

“It sounds…naive,” Mac continued. “The music business is just that…and the truth is, you are the product. People buy into all you are, not just your songs. Whoever booked me knows that damn well and I suspect it’s more true with you than most of their artists. Some musicians sell songs…some gift their fans a sense of self…of belonging. Maybe you wouldnae write the way you do, if you didn’t want to touch people that way. I don’t intend to fuck you over, Joe.” That was one word away from a lie, but it was a helluva lot truer than: I don’t intend to shaft you. Moving swiftly on.  “If you’re straight up with me, I’ll keep them off your back as much as I can…but that works both ways. If you’re dead set on fucking me over, then there’s no point. I might as well walk out the door, it’s no skin off my arse. I don’t need this jobbut you need meor I wouldnae be here. So…s’up to you.”

“’Kay.” Joe spoke so softly his nod was almost louder. Then abruptly sprang from his armchair before bending to scoop up Mac’s empty tumbler. “D’you want another drink?” 

What the fuck? Mac had expected Joe to unleash the erudite charm offensive that must surely have been simmering since he’d been informed that he was being saddled with a ‘bad-ass’ squatter for the foreseeable. What’s he up to…? 

‘Kay? That’s it?” Mac shot him a suspicious side-eye but Joe just shrugged.

“Yup. I want you to stay, so okay. D’you have stuff to bring in from the car?”

“Aye, I’ve got a couple of bags in the boot, I’ll go and fetch them in a minute.” 

“Okay. Should I show you around, so you know where everything is? You can choose a room to put your stuff in andwhat’s that face for?” Joe interrupted himself, brows knitting in puzzlement.

“You seriously think I intend to leave you to your own devices overnight?” Mac snorted.

“I…well, what are you going to do then?” 

“Sleep in your room.” Mac stated, with the most nonchalant shrug he could muster up.

My room?!” Joe squeaked in a voice about three octaves higher than usual. If those eyes got any wider they’d swallow his head.

“Joe, you answered the door in your pants, what’s the problem? I think it’s safe to presume you’re not prudish.” Mac did his damndest to maintain a poker face, somewhat akin to attempting this feat while clutching a royal flush. Joe’s expression was priceless; an anime depiction of ‘agog’.

“’Tis customary to ask before you go inviting yourself into someone’s bed, Mr Cocky Pants,” Joe sniffed.

“To sleep.” Mac clarified, with a clipped precision that belied the chronic cripple cock.

“Sadist,” Joe grumbled, obsidian eyes agleam with stardust. After spearing him with a withering stare, Mac stomped off to fetch his bags from the car. 

What the hell am I thinking? Yes, that decision had been a no-brainer on the drive down. Adam had just sat sentry all night, for chrissakes. Tactical thinking that did not account for the fact Mr Fitzerald In The Flesh was lethal. Ah well…so be it. Mac sure as hell had no intention of failing Joe because he feared an inability to keep it in his own pants…

 

***

 

Wafflish

WIP: My Way

Hi,

Heaven knows how much I’ve written of this storyp’raps 70%? I’ve edited a fair chunk of it so here’s the prologue and the first chapter if you wish to read along.

It’s an MM Bodyguard/Rockstar contemporary romance called ‘My Way’.  While its no doubt daft, it does dabble in darker topics. Joe Fitzgerald is the toppermost male solo artist in the country. He is also a heroin addict. Enter Mac. The baddest of all bodyguards procurred at great expense by Joe’s record company to protect him. From himself

 

Pastel Themed Natural Plants Mood Board (1)

Prologue

Mac

 

“About bloody time, too…” Vince snarked, leaning back in his bespoke leather chair.

“Fuck off. I was…unavoidably detained,” Mac retorted, flicking the office door shut with his foot.

”How long does it take you to cram it back in your pants, for chrissakes?” smirked his Agent. 

“I refuse to dignify that remark with a witty retort. What, or who, is responsible for that covetous glint of teeth masquerading as a smile?” 

“Joe Fitzgerald.” Vince’s air of smug satisfaction was palpable.

“Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald?” Mac sighed, still none the wiser, despite suspecting he was supposed to be impressed by said moniker.

“Mac, you might only listen to dead rock stars on principle, but

“Actually.” Mac interrupted. “If we were having this conversation not so long ago…Bowie was still very much with us.”

“But we’re not.” Vince pointed out.

“My point still stands. I wouldnae have listened to him ‘on principle’ for the last twenty years, if your supposition was correct.” Mac rolled his eyes with a long suffering sigh. “Do you ever intend t’get to the point?”

“F’fucksakes…beats me why I put up with this crap.” Vince glowered from beneath brows as black and fierce as his scowl.

“You know very well why…and you still haven’t responded to my most reasonable enquiry. Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald?

“You’d be out the door on the end of my foot if you weren’t shit-hot, you tosser. Joe Fitzgerald is the biggest male solo artist in the bloody country.”

Oh Christ. No. Get someone else, Vince. You dinnae need me for fending off a few screaming teenage girls.” Mac groaned, very glad he hadn’t bothered to sit down.

“True. I wouldn’t, but we ain’t talking fending off a few screamers.” The smug grin was back. “This gig will make Winehouse look like a piece of cake in comparison…and we know how well that turned out. Not. Fucking pillocks.  You’re a cussed git, but I reckon Amy might still be delighting us with her dulcet tones if…well…your ego’s big enough. So, you up for it, or what?” Vince leaned forward, resting his elbows on the huge mahogany desk and flexing his fingers with the air of a man about to flash his trump card. 

“Okay. I admit, I‘m intrigued. Are you saving that scotch for Christmas, or is it just for show?” Mac enquired, spearing the crystal decanter and two tumblers with a pointed stare.

 Mac had ignored the invitation to take a seat, largely because it never hurt to highlight the fact he might be on his merry way if a worthwhile offer didn’t ensue. His Agent’s preposterous chair was significantly higher than the one Mac had been invited to park his arse in, and he wasnae inclined to sit there—on principle—unless there was an alluring offer on the table. Aside from the whisky. 

Vincent was patently hell-bent on securing Mac’s services if the tight-wad was serving up the good stuff. A packet of peanuts and a bottle of Irn Bru would suffice, if the challenge tickled Mac’s fancy but he’d never seen fit to mention this. Very few people knew fuck all about Mac McCafferty—nor would they—any time for the foreseeable.

“So. Fitzgerald. What’s the score?”

“He does. Far too frequently,” Vince smirked.

“Drugs or groupies?” Mac allowed his lips a twitch of amusement.

“Shall we just say: I don’t think Mr Fitzgerald has any concept of the word ‘or’.”

“Vincent, if you expect me to babysit a spoiled brat with the brain of a haggis then—” 

Hooold your hosses.” Vince raised his palms, shaking his head from side to side. S-l-o-w-l-y. “If that were the case, then I’d send Dave to strong-arm him, I’m sure they’d have a ball watching Timmy Time together. Nope. He chews up bodyguards and spits ‘em out like cherry pips.”

“So he’s an utter tosser too?” Mac surmised, accepting the tumbler extended his way before folding himself into the Disney chair. 

“Nope. He pulls all that off with a twinkle in his eye. I ain’t saying he’s a tricksy bugger….but you might find it advisable to take your strongest pair of cuffs and some tranquiliser darts.” Vince’s gruff voice was now tinged with anticipatory triumph. 

“Straight up? Someone must be waving some stupid money about if you’re hell bent on luring me in with Heroin Houdini…” Mac knocked back the scotch and thunked the tumbler down the huge oak desk, shooting the decanter a pointed stare. 

“Straight up. Though he ain’t.” Vince grinned as he topped up their glasses. “Like I said…he ain’t got no concept of the word ‘or’.” 

“So what’s in it for me? If I accept.” Mac enquired, leaning back with an air of languid indifference while extracting his cigarettes from the pocket of his leather.

 

***

 

Chapter 1  

Mac

 

Mac stood on the gravel drive of the Georgian pile he’d been assured that Joe Fitzgerald was, indeed, residing in. Or had been, half an hour ago, when Vince phoned to confirm said fact. 

Joe’s not-so humble abode might have been a five-bedroom listed building, but it had a quaint, ramshackle air that was strangely charming. One that suggested it was the country pile of a dotty old squire who strode around the grounds waving a rifle about, wearing plus-fours and a deerstalker hat.

In the intervening hours since leaving Vince’s office, Mac had endeavored to discover who the fuck Joe Fitzgerald was. A swift scroll through the results of googling his name was all it took to ascertain that Vince hadnae exaggerated in order to reel Mac in. Mr Fitzgerald had the face of an angel and the disposition of de Sade. It was also blatantly obvious that Joe was gifted with way too much charisma for his own good…and far too much everything for Mac’s. 

 Having been promised that Joe was home—alone—for the weekend, someone’s stash of Macallan Triple Cask Matured had better start praying that proved true. Mac really wasnae in the mood to wade through the emaciated limbs of a dozen drugged-up groupies dossing in the hallway. Adam, Joe’s manager, had stayed over last night before heading back to London less than an hour ago, so the miscreant should, at least be in a fit state to answer the bloody door. Unless he’d had the pizza delivery boy in the meantime. Mac just hoped to fuck that was all that had been delivered in the interim. 

Mac rapped smartly on the heavy wrought iron knocker and stepped back to wait, wondering how long he would be expected to stand there, twiddling his thumbs. Not long at all, it soon transpired. Mac heard the creak of a rusted hinge from above his head and glanced up just in time to see a shock of platinum hair poke through a little attic window…largely filled by eyes. And a grin.

“Hiya… ” 

“Joe?” Stupid question. Who the hell else could it be, unless he had a doppelgänger decoy? Or a twin brother.

“Yesss…to whom am I speaking?” Joe Fitzgerald intoned grandly. Then grinned. Again.

“I’m Mac.”

“Are you the bass-ass sent to whip mine into shape? Actually, that’s starting to sound a lot more fun than I suspected…”

“I—” Mac began, but was (thankfully) cut off before having to muster some sort of response.

“Hang on a mo…” His dandelion-fluff head bobbed back inside and Mac soon heard the skitter of footsteps, a thud and a muttered ‘Ow..fuck’ before the heavy front door was finally tugged open. The apparition standing in the doorway was…very tall…very pale…and very nearly naked.

Mac blinked. Fuck.

“Hello…sorry, come in. You’re not what I expected at all.” Joe declared, waving Mac inside with a gallant flourish rather more in keeping with his house, than the current century.

“What were you expecting?”  Mac wondered aloud while stepping across the threshold. He found himself standing in a large parquet-tiled hall, littered with an unholy collection of clutter. An antique globe (cracked open to reveal a dozen half-empty bottles), a teetering hatstand, battered brown guitar case, two skateboards, one ancient bike and dozens of shoes (‘pairs’ being somewhat optimistic), scattered like lego brick landmines underfoot. 

“D’you fancy a cuppa? Oh sorry. I forgot to answer, didn’t I? Someone built like a bulldog, with a hatchet face and meat-hook fists, a bit like Butch from Tom and Jerry.” Joe grinned before swivelling on his heel to weave his way down the hallway. If ever instructed to ‘walk the line’ Joe would be buggered. He didnae even walk—he meandered—quite possibly in time to some melody audible only in his head. 

“Sorry to disappoint you.” Mac muttered, making a mental inventory of five doors and a curving staircase leading off the hallway.

“Disappoint?” Joe whirled round—limbs like windmill sails—before cocking his head to regard Mac with a dark, liquid gaze so luminous he couldnae help but wish he’d left his shades on. “Nope. I find myself surprisingly amenable to the whole ‘whipping me into shape’ idea,” Joe decided with an impish glint of teeth.

If Mac averted his eyes, he would find himself blinded by an extravagance of alabaster skin bisected by a pair of snugly fitting boxers. This didnae leave many options, other than fixing his gaze on Joe’s mouth; so plush, it verged on obscene in repose. Even his shock of hair was strangely endearing, when it would have assumed a peroxide sneer on most men. Endearing? That was a bloody weird word to rustle up. Joe Fitzgerald was a fully-grown, fully-fledged liability, not a gangly puppy.

It had become blatantly transparent why Vince had been so determined to lure Mac into accepting this job. When he should’ve sent Nurse Bloody Ratched instead…or an eminent psychologist, such as Dr Lecter. Someone who had a hope in hell of making it through the day without being devoured by those eyes. Or the grin. 

“Sooo…Mac-the-Knife. Is that your first name or surname and would you like a cuppa or something stronger?” Joe rattled off, without pause for breath or punctuation.

“Just Mac will do.” This had to be kept professional, or Mac was buggered before he began. A very unfortunate turn of phrase, if ever there was one.

“Tragic that. I could scarce imagine a more perfect moniker,” Joe beamed, unabashed.

“For a character in a Threepenny Opera, maybe.” Mac snorted.

“Or a bad-ass bodyguard. It’s better than Kev, that’s f’sure.” Joe flitted from subject to subject so swiftly, Mac still hadn’t got round to answering whether he would prefer tea or something stronger. That was a no-brainer, he was wound so tight something might snap if he didnae have a bloody drink.

“The character was ‘Frank’ I believe. Whisky, please.” Mac’s lips twitched in a treacherous effort to smile despite himself…and the deadpan demeanour he’d adopted.

“Phew, I was worried you’d be all teetotal and only drink green gloop. Or raw egg. You’d have to catch a chicken first though, cos I p’raps forgot to go shopping. Right, whisky it is, help yourself, JustMac. I’d better go and mooch up some clothes, I seem to be a smidge unseemly. It’s a good job you weren’t the vicar’s wife.”

“Does she pop round often?” Mac inexplicably asked, while pouring himself a generous dram of scotch. JustMacf’fucksakes. The rascal was as incorrigible as he was unrepentant about that fact.

“A fair bit. She keeps bringing me cakes, cos she thinks I need ‘feeding up’. There was a crock-pot on the doorstep the other day when I woke up. Good job it had a hat on, or I might have had an impromptu paddle.”  

The vicar’s wife was correct. Joe was as skinny as he was tall; so much so, he might well blow away on an errant wisp of wind. He was a good three or four inches taller than Mac’s five-eleven, but far too close to half his weight for comfort.  

“Have yourself a sit-down in there, I won’t be long…” Joe added, pointing to a doorway beside the hatstand, through which could be glimpsed floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a marble fireplace before spinning on his heel to slalom toward the open staircase.

If the miscreant did have anyone stashed away up there, chances were Joe might be some time. Not least when Mac had damn near drilled a hole in Joe’s head with his eyeballs…rather than relish the downward drift they were dead-set on.

 

***

cover reveal · Guest

Cover Reveal – Conned by Kim Fielding

Hiya,

I’m sorry I’ve been away for a while, I took a little time out to work on some edits and catch up on a spot of reading and a few movies.  I hope that you and your loved ones have all remained safe and well.❤️

 I thought it would be lovely to return with a Guest Post rather than launch straight into some more wafflish. So here, for your delectation…is the gorgeous cover of the new MM historical paranormal mystery, ‘Conned’ by Kim Fielding:

 

Coming soon: 1st June 2020

Book 6 in The Bureau series


Blurb

World War I veteran Thomas Donne is new to San Francisco. Always a stoic man, shell shock and a lost love have nearly turned his heart to stone. No matter—a private eye has no room for softness. Almost broke, he takes on what appears to be a simple case: finding a missing young man.

As a magician and medium, Abraham Ferencz cons his audiences into believing he can cheat death and commune with their dearly departed. Although his séances are staged, the spirits are very real, and they’ve brought him almost more pain than he can bear.

When Donne’s case becomes complicated and the bodies start to pile up, he and Ferencz must fight their way through a web of trickery and lies. The truth is obscured by the San Francisco fog, and in their uncanny world, anyone can catch a bullet.

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Giveaway

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Excerpt

When Abe was done with the slates, he would ordinarily have turned to the third and final act of the séance. It involved darkening the room, asking the audience to concentrate on their loved ones beyond the veil, and then operating a series of trap doors and curtains via hidden controls. Masks and gauzy drapery covered in luminescent paint would make flickering appearances. One key here was for his accomplice to have the first sighting. Rosie would gasp or scream before Abe had yet showed a prop, making everyone else eager for their own glimpses. The other key was to do this illusion after the guests had lost any lingering doubts.

It was a wonderful illusion, one that would send his guests away feeling as if their money had been well spent. But today one guest continued to have doubts, and Abe’s curiosity was too strong to resist. He decided to postpone the finale.

“Friends, I vill now move among you and see if I receive any messages from beyond.”

Rosie lifted her eyebrows, clearly surprised he was going to do a cold reading. He generally did that only during séances where he’d given the guests a brief refreshment break and Rosie had the opportunity to slip him notes about the people she’d spoken with at the beginning. It certainly hadn’t been part of today’s plan.

Nonetheless, Abe moved among the chairs with his head atilt, as if he were listening for a faint sound. He stopped in front of Rosie and closed his eyes. “Ah. I’m hearing a voice…. A woman. Mary? No. Margaret.”

Rosie gasped and clutched her chest. “My sister Meg?” she asked tremulously. “She passed five years ago from rheumatic fever.”

In fact, Rosie had two sisters—neither named Margaret and both quite alive—who she didn’t especially get along with and spoke to only infrequently. But she wobbled her chin convincingly as Abe nodded. “Yes. She says she misses you. She remembers the… the necklace you gave her for her birthday. It vas such a lovely gift, she says.”

Tears started to leak from Rosie’s eyes. Crying convincingly on cue was one of her many strengths. “She loved that little thing. We buried her in it.”

“She vants you to know that she’s very happy vhere she is now. She knows your life vill be long, but someday you shall see her again.”

“Th-thank you, Mr. France. Tell her I love her too.”

“She knows.”

Abe moved down the row to a man in his fifties, a Mr. Van Goethem. He was dressed moderately well but not richly, and his weathered face and battered hands suggested he’d once labored outdoors. He had an accent—Dutch or Belgian; Abe wasn’t certain—but it wasn’t strong, so he’d been in the United States for a long time. These observations and a general knowledge of human beings allowed Abe to make some safe guesses.

“I am hearing a woman again. She is…. I see the letter A?”

“Anna?” Mr. Van Goethem seemed confused.

“I am not sure. I believe the A is not at the beginning of her name.”

Mr. Van Goethem let out a noisy sigh. “Johanna. My mother.”

Perfect. Abe had chosen A simply because it was common in feminine names; after that, he could get the guest to lead him on the right path. “Yes, your mother. She says…. Oh.” He frowned deeply as if distressed.

“What? What does she say? Mama, I—”

Abe held up a hand to silence him. “It’s…. Oh, I see.” He bent so as to put his eyes on level with Mr. Van Goethem’s and lowered his voice as if to tell a secret. He knew his words would carry nonetheless. “She says she forgives you, sir. She knows you are a good man at heart. She is proud of you.”

Mr. Van Goethem didn’t cry, but he clamped his lips together and his throat worked. He gave a jerky nod.

This had been nothing but a guess. In Abe’s experience, nearly everyone had disappointed a parent at one point or another.

At last, heart pounding, Abe moved to the back row and came to a halt in front of Donne. Standing this close, he could see a bit of pale stubble on those broad cheeks and stubborn chin. Donne’s eyes were more fog-like than ever: opaque and chilling. The type of eyes a man could get lost in. He sat straight-backed but not tense, heavy muscles relaxed beneath his cheap suit and good shirt. But his hands—yes. They hung over the armrests and moved with the hint of a tremor.

Interesting.

Without truly intending to, knowing it might even be dangerous, Abe reached out and settled a palm on Donne’s shoulder. Although Donne flinched slightly, he didn’t strike out or move away. His jaw tightened, though, and his eyes narrowed.

The war, Abe thought. Yes. Donne was the right age for it, and his accent thick enough to suggest he’d come of age in England instead of the United States. Besides, there was something about the set of his body and the creases around his eyes. “I hear… a man,” Abe began.

And then he did.

As clear as if the person stood next to him, a voice spoke in Abe’s ear. It sounded young and sad and thin. Tommy. Oh, my darling Tommy, what have they done to you?

Abe unwillingly echoed a phrase, the words tearing his throat. “My darling Tommy.”

Donne leapt to his feet, jerking back so violently that he toppled the chair. One hand went into his coat pocket, and Abe was certain he was about to be shot. The idea didn’t frighten him, mostly because he was too deeply awash in the spirit’s sorrow. “Don’t hurt him, Tommy.” From his own mouth, but it wasn’t his accent or his voice. “Please don’t.”

The spirit… the man had been in his early twenties, perhaps. A pointed chin and sharp nose, thin mobile eyebrows, a wide mouth always a moment away from a cheeky grin. Ears that stuck out a little. Abe knew this although he couldn’t see the spirit. Just as he knew the spirit’s name. “Albert,” he said in his own voice.

Donne jerked again but held his ground. He was breathing hard.

Abe’s knees felt weak, his head swam, and Albert whispered in his head: tiny snippets and phrases that Abe couldn’t quite catch. Reaching out for a chair back to support himself, he became aware of the wide eyes and gaping mouths of his guests.

With considerable effort, he gathered his wits, giving Donne a quick apologetic glance before striding to the front of the room. He cleared his throat before falling back into his faux accent. “I am sorry, friends. Today the spirits have qvite exhausted me. I hope you have found some of the answers you sought.”

The guests seemed pleased as they gathered their coats and hats and filed toward the hallway and the door. They thanked Abe as they shook his hand. Soon only two others remained: Rosie, looking about as if perhaps she’d mislaid a glove, and Donne, towering and jut-jawed in the back of the room.

“I need to talk to you,” Donne growled.

Abe simply nodded. He took Rosie gently by the arm and led her down the hall, surreptitiously offering her five dollars at the door. She took it but paused with her hand on the knob. “Are you all right?” she whispered.

“I’m fine.”

“That was—”

“I’ll explain another time, sweetheart.”

She scrunched her mouth together. “But that big fella, he don’t look too safe.”

“Nothing worthwhile ever is. I’ll see you tomorrow, Rosie.” He gave her a gentle push out the door and locked it behind her. Then he turned and walked back to face Donne.


Author Bio

<imgsrc=”https://www.otherworldsink.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/AUTHOR-PIC-Conned.jpg” alt=”Kim Fielding” width=”600″ height=”600″ />

Kim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls California home. She lives there with her family, her cat, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Author Website: http://kfieldingwrites.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/KFieldingWrites

Author Twitter: @KFieldingWrites

Author Instagram: @KFieldingWrites

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4105707.Kim_Fielding

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/?s=kim+fielding&search_type=authors

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kim-Fielding/e/B006FN2T78?

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Snippets · Wafflish

An Easter Snippet…

Hiya, I hope you’ve had a splendid scoffalot… I have finally started work on the last edits of Hangover #3: Hangover the Rainbow.

As I’ve inundated you with Beastly Business since Halloween, Easter—season of renewal—seemed the perfect time to start afresh with a new snippet of an old favourite…

HangoverFromHell_200

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(Please excuse errors…my own edits.)

Hangover The Rainbow

 

 

Chapter One

Callum

 

 

 

“Welcome home, I left in a hurry, so it might be a bit of a mess…” Callum admitted, unlocking the front door.

“A mess? Blimey…” Daniel gaped in mock shock; wide-eyed, lips parted in a soft ‘o’. “Are you trying to finish me off today, dear hubby?”

“Less hassle than a divorce…and I get to keep the house.” Cal shrugged.

“Skint-flint. You’re bloody loaded. I’d be left squatting in the shed.” 

“Starving artist, you are not. No matter how rosy-tinted your specs are.”

“Am too. Famished, in fact.” Dan sniffed, wriggling out of his coat. His hat had…seen better days but survived. Just about. If only that remained true for the foolhardy scraps of Cal’s sanity.

“When did you last eat?” Callum couldn’t help but smirk, the answer being a dead cert.

“I dunno…but you know that’s got doodly-squat to do with it.”

“You were full-up an hour ago,” Callum pointed out. Pointlessly.

“Hmm…so I was. But I have a fast metabolism…” Everlasting arms wound around Cal’s waist, for all the world as if to proffer proof of that fact. From behind.

“D’you suppose I hadn’t noticed before you parked that there? Wouldn’t you rather have your wedding present first?”

“Really! You’ve written it!?”

“Put me down, you pillock!” Cal shrieked when he found himself whisked off his feet and whirled in sick-bucket circles. “I’ve got a few lyrics worked out, that’s all!” A sudden halt later, his hand was snatched up as Dan all but sprinted for the spiral stairs.

“Yay! C’mon…”

“Let me get my jacket and boots off, y’nutter,” Callum chuntered, yanking his fingers free after staggering into the studio. “Go and pour some drinks.”

“Okey dokey. Hurry up, though.” Dan called over his shoulder as he scurried off to fetch a couple of glasses.

After shrugging off said accoutrements, Cal collected his guitar from its customary corner. Excellent. Now he had to sing the bloody thing without even road-testing it first. He clearly hadn’t thought this through…again; a fact he’d found himself thinking far too often of late. Of late…? Five years just about covered it. Odd that.  Even then, Cal sure as shit hadn’t expected to eclipse his former efforts quite so spectacularly. F’fucksakes…

*

‘I’ve dumped too much crap on you over the last few days to work out what finally put the tin hat on it…’

‘You haven’t, you daftie. You married me. There was nothing I wanted more in all the world…’

 *

A desire Cal had somehow remained oblivious to. Daniel had never even hinted around the subject but then, he’d never asked Callum to ‘come out’ either. There had been  specific incidents that made Dan throw a fit—or shutter himself off—when they couldn’t  attend functions as a ‘couple’…but he’d never issued an ultimatum. Nor pleaded for the public recognition he deserved.

The only convention Cal had ever known Dan to abide by was sticking his paintbrushes in a pot of white spirits to soak. He paid no mind whatsoever to his effect on others, if he even noticed. Callum could only affect nonchalance—Dan’s oft cited ‘cool as fuck’ was but a façade Cal slipped on with some shades and his leather to face the world. Or indoors, for Daniel—worn with sod all else—on occasion. ‘Callum Carter’ was poles apart from the man Cal knew himself to be.

Not a single thing had led him to expect that Daniel Flynn, enfant terrible, might yearn for something as conformist and confining as marriage. The workings of that brilliant, baffling brain would forever perplex lesser mortals—that much was a given—but married? Dan? Cal had never imagined those two words might ever share the same page, let alone sentence. Particularly as a declaration of status.

Discovering that Dan was in fact a Martian would’ve been less staggering than the dreams he’d never once let slip from the loosest lips on the planet. Lips that had been dead set on driving Cal demented from the day they met. In every way Dan elected to wield them. Nevertheless, Callum sure as hell hadn’t expected them to excel themselves by…keeping schtum. In truth, Cal had thought them as incapable of restraint as the rest of his deadly beloved. Would Daniel ever cease to astound him? That seemed about as probable as Callum Flynn-Carter reclaiming his single surname status.

Weary of mental machinations (which rarely went anywhere worth visiting) on the drive home, Cal had determined on rustling up some lyrics for Dan’s ‘wedding present’. Efforts that didn’t prove as unproductive as he’d feared. Upon arrival in Hampstead, Cal had managed to cobble a few verses together: enough to play for Daniel…as a welcome home surprise of sorts. Strewth, their only day off for the foreseeable, and matters had spiralled horribly out of hand. Oddly ’nuff… 

“Okay, I’m ready,” Dan announced, plonking himself on the sofa, all eyes. Ears.

“It’s really rough, don’t expect much,” Cal warned.

“Oh shurrup, I only care that you’ve written it, I’m not fussed if you bloomin’ gargle it,” Dan promised, picking up his gin…in order to demonstrate. With forty percent proof mouthwash.

Callum sat down and hefted his guitar into his lap, downing a healthy gulp of whisky to wet his whistle before strumming the opening bars. The subject of the song was lit up like Christmas, even before Cal started to sing…

***