Guest · New Release · Release Blitz

Guest: Now or Never by Helena Stone

Hi…

A warm welcome to my special guest, the very lovely Helena Stone with her new novel ‘Now or Never’. 💜

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Now or Never

Author: Helena Stone

Publisher: Helena Stone

Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis

Release Date: August 23

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Hurt Comfort, Older Virgin, Distant (not quite enemies) to lovers

Themes Self acceptance

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: approx. 69 000 words/ 192 pages

It is part of a series but can be read alone.

Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

When the past intrudes, can two lost souls forge a future together?

Blurb

Karl’s carefully erected walls are crumbling. Giving up sex and relationships made perfect sense when he was eighteen. For a decade, he poured all his time and effort into his flourishing career. Doubts crept in the first time Karl met Leo and now, after two years of avoiding him, Karl is in charge of training Leo.

Leo loves his life in The Blowhole. Entertaining the guests during explicit shows under Roger’s guidance meets Leo’s needs and keeps his demons at bay. When Roger leaves, Leo’s job expands but he’s assigned to work with Karl, the General Manager who appears to detest him, and Leo’s anxiety blossoms. It wouldn’t be so bad if Leo hadn’t been attracted to Karl from the first moment he saw him.

Two men. A truck-load of insecurities and an attraction that can’t be denied. When the full horror of Leo’s past comes to light, will their fledgling connection be strong enough to weather the storm?

Now or Never_Out Now_Insta

Excerpt

Karl approached the table, put the white ball on its spot, bent his large frame forward, and took his shot. Karl’s cue action was so powerful, the colored balls parted as if a fuse had been lit underneath them. Leo fully expected at least a few of them to disappear into the pockets, but much to his surprise, none went down.

“Your turn.” Karl stepped back from the table.

“I’m spoiled for choice.” Leo grinned as he got in position for his first shot. He picked his ball, pulled back his cue arm and gently rolled the red ball into the pocket behind it.

A few minutes later, after he’d pocketed all the solid colors as well as the winning black eight-ball, Leo straightened and turned to Karl, unable to keep himself from smirking.

“Fair enough.” Karl laughed. “That’s my arse well and truly handed to me.” He approached the table, gathered the balls and set them up for the next game. “No more Mister Nice Guy.”

It took all Leo had not to spray his mouth full of Bacardi and Coke across the room. Until recently ‘Mister Nice Guy’ would have been the last words he’d have used to describe Karl. Then again, the Karl he’d worked with these five past days had been kind, patient, and accommodating. If it hadn’t been for the few times Leo had caught Karl staring at him with a slight frown on his face, Leo would have thought he’d only imagined Karl’s remoteness in the past.

Afraid he’d lose himself in his mostly inexplicable thoughts again, Leo returned his glass to the shelf and approached the table. After he put chalk on the tip of the cue and made sure the white ball was in the right spot, Leo bent forward. For a moment he swayed, and he had to reposition his feet to get his balance right. Then he moved his arm back and gave it his all as he shot the white ball toward the triangle of colored and striped balls, fervently hoping at least one of them would go down.

“Damn.” No such luck. Leo turned around, fully expecting to find Karl smirking at him, only to find Karl’s gaze fixed on his…groin?

“Your turn.”

Karl raised his head and stared at Leo, clearly shocked by his brusque tone. Leo understood his surprise: he wasn’t sure where that sound had come from, either. The red flush on Karl’s cheeks, on the other hand, was unexpected.

Leo took a long drink from his glass as soon as he reached it before facing the table so he could watch Karl pot the first striped ball. Was he really looking at my package? Leo side-eyed his cocktail, wondering if it had been a drink too many after all. Surely there was no possible scenario in which Karl, the man known for never showing any sexual preference or interest, would be checking Leo out?

As Leo’s mind spun with unanswerable questions, Karl continued potting balls, one after the other. Just as Leo had in the previous game, he looked set to clear the table in one visit. Leo smiled. Karl was a worthy opponent.

“Fuck.” Karl whispered the word under his breath, but not too soft for Leo to hear him.

One glance at the table told Leo what Karl’s problem was. Karl only needed to pot the black in order to win. But, the white and the black ball were positioned in such a way that unless Karl shot the white at two or three cushions before hitting the black, it would take quite a stretch to make the shot.

Karl took up position next to the table and lifted his left leg, resting it on the edge, before bending at the waist and stretching.

Leo had meant to watch the shot. He’d had no intention of focusing on Karl, but he did, and his breath faltered for a moment. The material of Karl’s black pants gripped the thigh that rested on the table, showing the feint outline of muscles. And…Dear God…Karl’s arse was glorious under the stretched fabric.

Karl straightened and Leo snapped out of his daze. He threw a quick glance at the table and saw the black ball had disappeared. In the end he hadn’t even seen Karl make the shot. Because you were too busy admiring his arse. Leo almost groaned out loud when he remembered how he’d wriggled when he’d lined up his shot to start the game. Karl had been looking at an arse, too, which was at the same height as Leo’s groin. So when Leo had turned…

AON_Quote Suit_FB

About the Author

Helena Stone can’t remember a life before words and reading. After growing up in a household where no holiday or festivity was complete without at least one new book, it’s hardly surprising she now owns more books than shelf space while her Kindle is about to explode.

The urge to write came as a surprise. The realisation that people might enjoy her words was a shock to say the least. Now that the writing bug has well and truly taken hold, Helena can no longer imagine not sharing the characters in her head and heart with the rest of the world.

Having left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the peace and quiet of the Irish Country side she divides her time between reading, writing, long and often wet walks with the dog, her part-time job in a library, a grown-up daughter and her ever loving and patient husband.

NOW 2

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Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

Wafflish

My Way 51

 

My Way

 

 

62 Mac

 

 

 

“Fuck.” Adam’s expletive splintered the shimmering silence; reverberating with the echo of the last chord strummed. He appeared rather startled, Mac noted with a sense of satisfaction he found…unsettling, to say the least. “That was bloody blindingand I’m not just talking ‘tight’I’m talking the dog’s bollocks. If you play like that on Wednesday, I’ll be cursing the fact I never booked a film crew. Then I could get on the blower to Amazon or Netflix or whatever, telling ’em that the stakes have just been raised to Six Foot Four…” 

“From Five Foot Two, I take it? That’s just blasphemy, that,” Connor declared. “And, just for the record? Sizeist, too. Waving surplus inches about in the faces of the press is an alliterative accident waiting to ’appen, I reckon.  Junkie Joe’s Junk, just sayin’. Biiig mistake. Jinormous.”

“Christ, you’ve had your Shreddies this morning, Con. Don’t tempt him, or it’ll be trending on twitter before y’know it. If only to start a bidding war,” Luke groaned. 

“Sometimes, you scare me, Three Shredded Wheats Watson…” Connor shot him a suspicious side-eye that made Luke splutter a snort of laughter. Not quite as taciturn as he seems at first acquaintance. Mac patently hadnae paid Joe’s drummer the attention he merited. Overlooking the ‘strong silent type’ was never wise. Mac should have clearly polished off some crunchy nutters after his bacon (and Joe’s).

As for the all-day breakfast habits of this band? Mac was starting to suspect their rider would prove more scandalous than egregious inches, if it was leaked to the media. Cereal addicts, the lot of ’em. Should anyone suggest renaming Psycho Killer? Mac couldnae be answerable for the consequences.

“You lot can stick your cardboard breakfasts where the sun don’t shine. I’m a meat man, m’self,” Jez smirked. “Lightweights, the lot of you…if Mac didn’t put away a Full English this morning, then I quit. Mac, save me, please.” The imploring puppy-dog-eyes Jez turned on Mac were as priceless as the fact they’d patently been perfected to stymie someone’s lash-batting terror tactics.

“Gladly…” Mac obliged with a conspiratorial grin. “Two, in fact.”

“Ha. That’s it, he’s a keeper. I rescind my resignation. I’ll stay if Mac does. Speaking of grub, I’m starving…and Joe is suspiciously silent. Y’okay, Fitz?” 

“Hmm…?” Joe blinked, swivelling an abstracted gaze Jez’s way, or thereabouts. “I was…thinking. I need a pen…and a piano. Dammit, I didn’t bring my flute. Well, I did, but it’s at The Berkeley. Ah well, no matter, I don’t need it now-now.”

“You don’t need a piano either, you were going to play the new song. The last new song before this new song—the one I’m prepared to eat all your hats if you forget—so I reckon you’re good to go. Colour me curious, I’m intrigued…and famished. I have a hot date with a Bulgogi and a pair of thigh-high boots, so…If you’d be so kind, Mr. Fitzgerald?” Jez swept a flourish of his wrist mic-wards with a half bow and all the flair of a compere at The Royal Variety Performance.

Mac had to concede that Joe had a point on the too similar to find one another irresistible front. Brains like twin-barrelled scatterguns. As brilliant as they were batshit bonkers. Mac couldnae recall the last time he’d found company quite so…entertaining. 

His squaddie days, perhaps? He didnae do ‘nostalgia’ but he may have missed the camaraderie of those early years. Rising in the ranks didnae come accompanied by a barrel of laughs—it was a trade-off of sorts—respect in exchange for comradeship. Mates. Men whose lives were worth trading your own for. Rather than your duty to do so. 

Special Forces had demanded a different kind of…kinship. Brothers In Arms in extremis. Since then, Mac had existed on the peripheries of all that made a man human. It was the life of a lone predator, and he relished the self-reliance. Considered himself independent, as opposed to isolated. Free to roam at liberty, eradicating the liberties less discerning bastards took with more deserved lives. 

All of which made it…interesting that Mac had taken to this eclectic bunch of blokes, when indifference had best described his dealings with Stateside showbiz types. His insights into the music business, on the other hand, had proved…disappointing, at best. Irritating, more often than not but then, he’d previously been contracted to protect ‘pop stars’ from screamers…rather than musicians, from themselves. 

“Okay…keep your dreads on, drama llama. I feel decidedly underdressed now.”

Whether the absence of said bootsor The Palladium intro were more responsible wasnae elaborated onwhich was perhaps just as well. Particularly if Jez was to be spared starvation and kinky-boot induced cripple cock. 

“It still needs work, sorry…but I want to include it,” Joe scuffed his toe, staring at his feet, strangely…abashed. 

“I wouldn’t worry about it. I suspect there’d be demands for a refund if you didn’t meander off on some ramshackle ditty,” Connor snickered..

“Half naked…at least,” Luke chipped in.  At least? Over my dead body. The miscreant would find himself carted off stage if that looked likely, even if it caused a goddamn riot.

“Quit gassing you lot and let him get on with it then, before Jez’s dinner winds up in the dog,” Adam advised, with a despairing eyeroll for Mac’s ‘benefit’. 

Connor handed Joe his semi-acoustic before heading over to join Mac, his expression one of keen interest, rather than impish amusement, which was a first. 

“Okay…” The sheen of sweat glistening on Joe’s face looked thick enough to drag a finger through, like condensation on glass. It had been a fair few hours since his ‘breakfast’. “’S called…’Then’.”

Then. Thank God Mac was sitting down, it wasnae so far for his jaw to drop. Then: a word he’d mooted even more recently than that last fix. Had Joe written an entire song since? Mac had assumed that Adam must’ve eavesdropped on the ‘new’ one Joe played in the car during their journey. 

Then. Fuck.

It’s…all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…trust me, you said. I know you don’t trust me…and I don’t blame you, I don’t…but this? Tell me one thing you trust yourself to do, Mac…

Mac couldnae recall the last time he’d felt a creeping sense of shame leech the colour from his face. Or been so thoroughly blindsided. If the devil himself spent forever plotting? Mac couldnae imagine a more lethal plague on his person than discovering who the fuck Joe Fitgerald was.

The first trickle of notes that tripped from Joe’s strings were tentative, as if he were feeling his way into the song…unless it was supposed to sound that way. 

Wide asleep…” Two words…and the tempo made sense. Joe left them lingering in the air while playing a few more bars before the confirmation came. 

Pupils pinned…” Another pause for a repetition of the riff that made Mac’s tendons reverberate in response, twang tight, as tense as muscles steeled to spring.

“From station to station…” Christ. Joe had heard what…three seconds of ‘Time’? Before rewinding it to—incidentally—the best of Bowie incarnations. 

Mac could only be grateful that he was too staggered to register the full impact of the next few lines. Unleashed in swift succession to spear him like lightning strikes. Sung to Mac—at him—in smoky tones as seductive as opium fumes and eyes ablaze with dark fire drilled him to his seat: 

“Then. Came a thunder clap 

A steel-sprung snare trap

My lean mean lethal machine…

A clash of contrasts as extreme…

As whispers in the wind.

Or the soft susurration

Of summer rain

To soothe, succour, sustain…”

My lean mean lethal machine? Thunder clap? He’d transformed Mac into steel-jaw trap Thor. Poetic licence assuredly, but even then; a superhero was the last thing on Earth Mac resembled. That part was too outlandish to focus on—sheer wordsmithery wrought by a Romantic—with my resounding around his head.

My…my…my…was the sound of a ‘Word on a Wing’. Mac was still listening to its echo when Joe started strumming rather than finger pickingthe strings. When he began to sing, his voice was a ripple of velvet ribbon weaving its way through the words:

As hollow as a heart without hope 

Smack sodden, strung out on dope, 

And pipe dreams in the sky dreams

The lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore Lost no more

Mon amour Dur à cuire…

 *

Joe…hollow hearted, alone in a land of lost dreams. ‘Drowning’ in smack, until…deposited safely on shore. By mon amour Dur à cuireMon Dieu.

Mac’s French and Italian were…good enough to get by when a target was based in mainland Europe. He tended to be  dispatched there more often than most, because he could pass as a native, apparently. Until he opened his mouth, of course…but still. Mac sure as hell recognised the expression dur à cuire: Badass. Hard-nut. Bulldog.

Mon amour dur à cuire… 

Merde.

 

***

 

Blog Tour · Guest · Reviews

Guest post & review: The Experiment by Rebecca Raine

 

Hi… 🥰

I posted Chapter 50 of My Way last night, perchance you missed it. https://zakarrie.com/2020/08/22/my-way-50/

Today, I’d like to welcome my guest Rebecca Raine with her wonderful new novel, The Experiment. Many thanks to Rebecca for the copy I received, read, and reviewed below. In a nutshell? It was a delight to do so.

 

BLOG TOUR

Book Title: The Experiment

Author: Rebecca Raine

Cover Artist: Bec Rivers

Release Date: Tuesday, 18 August (AEST)

Genre/s: Contemporary MM Romance

Trope/s: Friends-to-Lovers, Gay for You, First-time Gay

Themes: Friendship, Self-discovery, Self-experimentation

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 85 000 words/ approx. 210 pages

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

When a single kiss calls your sexuality into question,

there’s only one sure path to a reliable answer: further research.

 

Blurb

 

Patrick

I like to think I know myself outside and in. As a developmental psychologist, I’ve spent years exploring the true foundations of my identity. So, when losing a bet means kissing my best friend, Logan, I already know I’m going to hate every second of it. All the relevant questions regarding my sexuality were asked and answered years ago. The results were conclusive: despite the odd same-sex attraction, I dislike being touched by men.

That is, it seems, until Logan is the man doing the touching. The intense desire aroused by his kiss contradicts all my expectations and I have no idea how to integrate the new information. Thankfully, I know exactly how to uncover the truth about myself—once and for all.

Logan

I’ve put a lot of effort into keeping Patrick out of my fantasies and in the friend-zone. Our recent lip-lock may have unleashed my feelings for him temporarily, but I’ll get them back on their platonic track in no time. Falling for a friend, especially a sexually ambivalent friend, is a one-way ticket to heartache.

But, when the unforeseen impact of our kiss inspires Patrick to conduct an experiment into the extent of his bisexuality, I can’t resist volunteering to help. If any man is going to join Patrick on his journey of self-discovery, it’s sure as hell going to be me.

 

 

Review

 

I’m more reluctant to request ARCs than my interest in a novel merits. The reason is simple, I can’t bear the thought of being gifted an author’s work, only to enjoy the book a lot less than I’d hoped. As a result of which, I worry that I’ll wind up feeling dreadful and trying to write a review that doesn’t wound the author. I know…I’m not supposed to take that into account. A fair and honest review is not a personal attack on them or their writing. It is just my not-a-jot defining opinion about a story, that’s all. 

As I’ve never been able to pay heed to what I’m supposed to feel, do, or say, it’s pointless telling me otherwise. So…in order to brave the whole process? I’ve come to regard reading with a view to review as an…experiment of sorts. One I don’t repeat as often as my interest is piqued by the premise, as much as I might wish I could steel myself to do so.

Now you know why I found this book so irresistible…and why I started my review as I did. Patrick’s thought process is about as far from mine as I can imagine; I unerringly follow my instincts, so I found it fascinating to be given such an intimate window into workings of a mind so removed from my own. Particularly, as it transpired, when formatted as research for a psychology dissertation. I was riveted by the end of the first chapter and read the first three quarters of the story in one sitting.

The book was described as gay-for-you, which made me pause before requesting it—aware that some find the trope troubling—but I’m so glad I did. Particularly when it wasn’t a gay-for-you story.  It may have seemed that way, at the start…but it quickly became apparent that, rather than being an avowedly straight man who’d repressed his sexuality? Patrick had spent a great deal of time pondering the issue and trying to ascertain his truth. Doing just that is an intrinsic part of who he is: a developmental psychologist determined to live his life authentically. All of which meant he’d already run a tentative experiment to discover if he was, indeed, bixseual as a teen. An experience so awful that the answer was an unequivocal no.

It is a drunken bet that gives him the courage to reassess those findings. You may find that unfeasible but in all honesty? I’m not sure that I’ve ever found the set up of a favourite trope ‘realistic’ . I don’t read tropes for realism, I read them purely for pleasure. While I love ‘fake relationship’ novels, I don’t for a minute imagine that the world is crammed with pretend boyfriends, fiances, and husbands living elaborately planned lives to inherit a fortune or fool some decrepit family member into believing the lie they’re being sold. Annnd just so happening to fall in love along the way, with an all consuming intensity as luscious as it is…unlikely.  I care not…that’s exactly what I wanted to read when I chose the book.

So…don’t bother reading this story if you find the ‘experiment’ set up ridiculous or unrealistic. You missed a delightful read you wouldn’t have enjoyed.

I did…and loved every minute I spent with Logan and Patrick. A story about two adorable loons in love, told with a ‘methodology’ I found fabulously fresh. I didn’t stop reading until I realised that I was about to be coshed by The Conflict. Yes…I know it’s considered an ‘important part’ of a plot arc. I care even less about that than the realism thing. So…I went for a snack and pulled my unisex pants up. I can do this, thought I. Endure a few chapters of ‘misunderstanding’ or muddle-headed madness, in order to relish Patrick & Logan’s happy ever after. 

Thankfully, it didn’t drag on for long. Better yet, I found myself persuaded that its inclusion did indeed explain the flawed reasoning that forms the premise of Patrick’s experiment. His panic is induced by a family dinner, in which we discover what led to his determination to avoid a latter day epiphany. Thus, he’s hell bent on nailing his sexuality, once and for all, and instigates the experiment to discover his ‘authentic self’. A bit bonkers when sexuality is rarely set in stone, but that’s the idea he’s dead set on, to head off the devastation his dad’s life changing accident wreaked. So, who am I to quibble? Do what you need to in order find your peace…it saves a lot of heartache along the way, not least for yourself. 

I haven’t mentioned Logan very much, but suffice to say…he’s a very willing participant in The Experiment with his ‘best friend’. I adored him, he was my favourite of the two men. He’s witty and warm with a twinkle in his eye, infinitely patient and as hot as hell. The banter between them is an additional delight and I was rooting for them all the way. I loved it.

🧡🧡🧡🧡🧡

Teaser - Drag and claw

Excerpt

“You can do your experiment with me.”

My heart pounds, as I wait for him to respond to my offer. The part of me that’s sure he’ll say yes is already weak with relief that he won’t go out looking for anyone else. I don’t want other men touching Patrick. If he’s only ever going to do this experiment with one man, I want that man to be me.

“I thought you wanted to go back to the way things were.” His gaze is wary, and he has yet to move a muscle. “We’re friends, nothing more. That’s what you said.”

“Yes, and it’s still true,” I assure him. “I do want to go back to being friends. But we can do it after the experiment.”

His breath has quickened and, when he speaks again, his voice is rough. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“It’s the best viable solution,” I tell him, as if coating my possessiveness with a thick layer of pragmatism will make it less obvious. “Don’t forget, it was my kiss that breathed life into your queerness.” My body reacts to the idea of doing it again… and again… and again. However many times he needs to be satisfied. I make a show of licking my lips, enjoying the way he watches with rapt attention. “How much do you want to bet I can get more than a boner out of you?”

With a start, his eyes narrow and he points a finger at me. “No more bets.”

Laughing out loud, I nod. “That’s right. How could I forget?”

He runs a hand over the back of his neck as he looks around the bar, before returning his gaze to me. “I’ll admit, when I decided to do this, my first instinct was to come to you.” He gestures at me with an impatient hand. “You’re the only guy I’ve ever enjoyed kissing and it totally blew my mind. Why do you think I’m doing this in the first place?” he growls, his frustration coming through. “It’s not just because of what happened when we kissed. It’s the fact I can’t stop thinking about it.”

He’s not the only one. I’ve rubbed my cock raw in remembrance. The urge to shove him back against the nearby wall washes over me. I want to give him something new to think about. Ignoring the impulse, I swallow hard and speak in a low voice. “When you’re thinking about it, are these analytical thoughts about what it all means? Or are they wanking thoughts?”

He glances away, trying to appear nonchalant. “Both.”

My muscles tighten at the thought of him with his hand wrapped around his throbbing dick, fantasising about kissing me while he pants and moans his way to orgasm. I want to know what he looks like when he comes. What he sounds like. How he feels.

“But,” he says, with emphasis, interrupting the lustfest going on in my head, “I decided against it because I know you don’t—” The words cut off and his eyes close briefly. “I don’t want us to stop being friends.”

“I don’t want that either but, Patrick, you’re playing with fire here and assuming no one will steal the matches. I’m the only one I trust to do this right.”

He’s still reluctant. I can feel the force of his doubts. But he hasn’t said no.

“Patrick, listen to me.” I slide a hand around the back of his neck, urging him to meet my gaze. “You need someone you can trust to stop when you say stop, no matter what’s happening when you say it. Someone who won’t get pissed at you and accuse you of being a tease when you leave them with blue balls.” Releasing him, I grin. “Besides, you tried looking for someone else to kiss. It didn’t work. You chose me and now you’re stuck with me for the duration.”

He huffs out an indignant sound. “I could find someone else to kiss,” he blusters, “if I looked really hard… for about ten years.”

I laugh out loud, knowing I almost have him convinced. “Yeah, but even if you did, it wouldn’t matter.”

“Why is that?” He leans closer, as if he’s looking forward to my response.

In that instant, I realise how badly I want this—him. I want to tug on every thread of his sexuality, freeing each strand for thorough inspection. I want to tie him in knots, before making him unravel for me. And I want him to know, every second along the way, I’m the one who is doing this to him. That I’m the only man to ever make him feel this way.

Licking my lips, I take a step closer and bring my face in next to his. “Because even if you did hit your limit with someone else, you’d always wonder how much further I could have taken you.” I lower my head, so he can feel my breath against his neck as I go in for the kill. “Patrick, my friend, I’m going to drag your arse so far down my end of the spectrum, you’ll have to claw your way straight.”

 

 

About the Author

Rebecca is a long-time lover of all things romance. Whether it’s a book, movie, or real life, she will always have more fun if there’s a love interest thrown into the mix. She lives in Queensland, Australia with her very own hero husband, two quirky kids and one big, black dog. Other than reading and writing books, her favourite things include loud music, enjoying a glass of wine on the patio, organising everything in existence, and spending too much time on the Internet.

 

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The Experiment - larger size

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one of five mobi copies of The Experiment

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Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts, interviews and reviews here

 

 

Wafflish

My Way 50

My Way

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61 Mac

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Mac regretted mooting the ‘bandmates-with-benefits arrangement’ the moment he’d all but spat said accusation at Joe. For a multitude of reasons, first and foremost being the fact it revealed far too much for comfort.

While he’d never been lazy, envy was the only other deadly sin Mac wasnae guilty of. He was riddled with vices, most of which he valued above his scant virtues; none of which had ever served him well. Quite the contrary, he considered them weaknesses. Mac had done his damnedest to suppress, if not eradicate, anything that reeked of ‘softness’. Pity, in particular, was lethal—he’d quashed that like a beetle beneath his boot—the most fearsome of foes couldnae compare.  

Mac didnae want to watch the world burn. Nothing so…noble. Fire could be considered purifying. Mac couldnae claim to be a righteous man. Nor a decent one. He dealt in vengeance and death. Killed in cold blood. He was a weapon without a cause, pointed at a target, as injudicious as death itself. A reaper of revenge. Mac took out the trash. Men he deemed worse than he.

Playing God? No, far from it. He didnae cull innocents. Not even as ‘collateral damage’. That was a crime he’d only committed for Queen and Country…and the main reason Mac no longer did. The other…? Doing so while living half a life himself. An existence that required him to kill to order, but denied him the right to love. Openly.

Psycho Killer? Joe’s tongue-in-cheek tease, and taken as such. ‘Paint it Black’ would’ve been more fitting…except Mac had never shied from facing up to the fact his world was as black as his heart. But jealous wasnae Mac’s colour.

Or, hadnae been. Who the fuck is Joe Fitzgerald, indeed…

Aside from the miscreant intent on pointing the Psycho Killer finger at Mac in front of thousands, that is. Fair enough…it was their secret code of sorts. Ringtone of the McBatphone; the only one Joe answered. It might even be considered a…fond nod to that fact. But…in tandem with My Way? It became something else entirely. A piss-take from the safety of a stage. A very public one. 

What did I do wrong? You can’t say nothing, cos Jez noticed too…‘ 

Yes. Mac could: Nothing…yet.

As for Connor? If it ever happened, neither of us noticed, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if you weren’t the last man who fell to Earth who might need to...’

“Why might that be?” Mac enquired. He was wound so tight, his voice sounded flat, devoid of feeling. Verging on bored…as if he couldnae care less. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth.

“You know why. I promised. I meant it.” Joe shrugged, too casual to possibly be so. As was the way he flicked the butt of his cigarette to the floor and ground it beneath the heel of his boot. 

“You expect me to believe that while sneering at me in the most public way possible? My Way?” Mac retorted. “The song itself has that covered…but Sid even sang it as a sneer. That’s just the half of it—”

“No!” Joe cried, cutting him off. “No, It’s none of it. It was never about that! I jus-just wanted to…it’s the only way I know—that I could show—I, Mac, I—” Joe broke off, digging his fingers into his scalp, as if intent on tearing his hair out. “You’ll see…please? It’s…all I can do. The only thing…worth anything. Just let me show you…trust me, you said. I know you don’t trust me…and I don’t blame you. I don’t…but this? Tell me one thing you trust yourself to do, Mac. One thing above all else?” Joe demanded, spearing Mac with an accusing stare.

If midnight burst into flame it would look like those eyes.

“You know damn well, which is why you’re asking…and yet, you want confirmation. Christ knows why…you want me to tell you how it feels? It doesnae. That is why you don’t want to know, Joe. So, go in there, sing your song, tell your truth. I asked for it, after all,” Mac snorted. “My terms. My Way…” Fuck.  

He chews ’em up and spits ’em out like cherry pips…

Oh, but not me? Arrogant arse.

Mac raked a despairing hand through his hair.. “C’mon…let’s get back. The sooner you’re done, the quicker you can get back to what really matters.”

“That’s not fair.” Joe rounded on him like a spiky kitten with eyes spitting sparks.

“Prove it.” Mac returned, resorting to icy indifference. He had fuck all else to safeguard himself from Joe Fitzgerald.  Yanking the door open, Mac jerked his head to indicate ‘you first’ and followed his flouncing charge back inside.

Mac had blown it. Buggered his remit to deliver Joe in a fit state to function in one fell swoop…and for what? A bruised ego? Petty point scoring? Jealously? Pathetic. Fuck knows what Joe’s bandmates would wind up suffering for Mac’s utter ineptitude. He’d pretty much pulled the pin from the grenade and tossed it into the rehearsal room.

Blowing out a regretful breath, Mac followed in Joe’s wake. Possibly to attend a rehearsal for that of their careers.

*

“Thanks for holding the fort. Is everyone good to go?” Joe breezed into the studio for all the world as if he’d just been for an invigorating walk in the woods. “I don’t expect it t’be pitch perfect, I just want to feel m’way through. So, same set list, ‘cept the new song…I’ll play it solo after ‘Is This It’. We may as well do the covers last, for now. I just want to rattle through from start to finish…so, no worries on the bum note front, just carry on regardless. Adam…I’ve decided to use ‘Cat People’ as the intro music, if you’d be so kind as to sort it…” 

“The whole set, without…pause?” Connor sounded incredulous. “Who are you? And what the bejeezus have you done with…etcetera, etcetera…?”

“Shurrup O’Donnell and do your plinking thing.” Joe sniffed, affecting affront, as he selected a guitar from the rack and shrugged it’s strap over his shoulder. “Ready?”

“As you’ll ever be…” Connor grinned, taking his place at a mic to the left of Joe’s, set centre ‘stage’.

“Damn cheek…” Joe just winked, spinning on his heel to face Luke.

The next hour was the most staggering sixty minutes Mac (as sure as shit hitting the fan) hadnae foreseen when Joe stomped off in a huff…a few minutes beforehand. He stood, leaning against the wall, arms folded, legs crossed at the ankles, little knowing what to expect. Either in content or…commitment. Joe’s jaunty air had suggested they were about to launch into little more than a rough jam, ‘bum notes’ and all. 

Mac, of course, had only heard Joe play one song; a ballad as achingly raw as the impact it wreaked. Thus, the sudden surge of sound that crashed against his ears was as unexpected as it was exhilarating. A breath-snatching assault of sheer power and musical prowess. As staggering as the intensity of Joe’s delivery…the irony weaved by its words. Even its title was an oxymoron. Bedsit Busker. Buskers played in public for passersby who tossed pennies into a hat. A bedsit suggested a bleak box room in a busy city…a tableau of loneliness. It definitely did to a teenage ‘Gutterheart’ who’d sought solace in the lyrics of Marc Almond and Morrisey while stripping himself back to sinew and bone. Deadening the truth that would destroy his future before Mac even embarked upon it. 

The bleakness of the bedsit song was followed by a swift succession of melodies as irresistible as the mind from whence they’d sprung; running a gamut of emotion from one end of the scale to the other. Minor chords of melancholy entwined with deceptively intricate ditties, and refrains as immediate as they were infectious.

Had that been all? Mac would’ve declared that Joe had a gift for knocking up a great hook, but that was the least of it. Those mellifluous melodies merely framed—shaped—the stories Joe told. With an intonation as uniquely his own as any artist could lay claim to. Some songs could be sung by anyone…others belonged entirely, exclusively, to their singer. Words that could’ve only frothed forth from the wellspring that was (who the fuck is) Joe Fitzgerald. The click of that tongue, the roll of his rrrr’s, the moue of his mouth. Inimitable.

The lyrics themselves were a revelation. Lyrics? They were poetry, pure and far from simple. If Mac hadnae seen them flow from Joe’s fingertips with startling fluidity, he would’ve thought they’d been meticulously crafted—wrangled to his will—honed and perfected over hours, days, weeks, months…and maybe they had been. But Mac felt somehow sure their essence had been captured in one frenzy of focus so intense, Joe wouldnae have noticed if the world had burst into flames, until his paper and pencil followed suit.

Words that swept Mac along on a tidal wave of emotion. From the most incisive clatter of self-contempt never spat by John Lydon to the unbearable tenderness of a ballad Joe and Jez coaxed from semi-acoustic guitars.  ‘Is This It’—the song Joe had referenced at the start—was the former. A track as bitter-sweet as it was brutal, pulling no punches as it battered its subject with scorn, mocked it with disdain…and left him for dead. 

“Hey Joe, where’d you go…

Why d’you stay

Washed up, wasted, 

Scoring day to day.

.

Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Tall poppy tales

from the toppermost tree?

A brief relief 

from being me?

.

And so I flail, 

from fail to fail

From fix to fix

A fix to fix

hope departed 

Hole hearted.

Numbing the ache

Yours to take.

.

Is this it? All there’ll ever be?

Filthy lucre n’ kicks for free?

No you, for me?

Never to hear 

A ‘mine’ nor ‘we’...

Without thee. Who’d you be? Is this it…no you, for me? No ‘mine’ nor ‘we’. Merely…I, myself, and my eneme...”

*

The entire song was a teeth gnashing crash of futility. As poignant as it was precise in its dismemberment. Rage, regret and self-recrimination, directed inwards and out. Delivered by a Joe Fitzgerald Mac would’ve been prepared to swear he’d never met in his bloody life. Gone was the gawky grace of those long, lean lines…in it’s place? Joe was all sharp corners and spiky limbs, as fluid as freeform jazz…and yet, as mesmeric as a metronome.

Mac sat, spellbound by this stranger with Joe’s eyes. For they could belong to no other. They drilled him to the seat he must have sunk on to, at some point. Implored far more than Mac could afford to surrender. Ablaze with fearful fury, as cruel as glass shards ground against skin. It didnae seem possible that one gaze could ache with such intense vulnerability and yet, spit such vitriol. The latter felt like being spattered by needlepoints of hot fat. Soothed, by imploring pools of drowning brown in the very next breath. 

Only once had Mac felt quite so besieged; as brain scrambling, breath-snatching experiences went? It sure had waterboarding beat. An endurance test he’d emerged from sane. Whether Mac would survive the next few days in a fit state to function, was a whole other matter.

Moreover, as it soon transpired? Joe had barely begun…

.

***

Wafflish

My Way 49

Hi, I’ve included the start of Joe’s chapter so that it follows through…

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My Way

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60 Joe

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“Magic.” Joe grinned when he and Jez were done rustling up the perfect arrangement for their guitar parts. “Thanks for this, Jez…”

“No need, this”—Jez wafted a finger back and forth between them, before swirling it in the air above his head—”is all the thanks I need. Look at those two, I can’t recall the last time Luke didn’t look as if he’d rather be playing Call of Duty. They’re buzzing. C’mon, ‘fess up…what gives? You look a helluva lot like a Fitz who’s been fucked senseless, might I add, so don’t even think about spinning some seeing-the-light fairy story. I doubt you’ve seen it for three days. I rarely bottom, but Dayum…”

Jez had been married to the love of his life for five years, and never once availed himself of the offers his sublime guitar skills and general sex godliness bombarded him with. Joe flicked his gaze toward the man who made damn the understatement of the century. Unless accompanied by unprecedented access to Jez’s spectacularly lush tush. 

When Joe flicked his gaze Mac’s way, he was parking the baddest ass in a plastic chair. A cheap as chips monstrosity he somehow contrived to seat himself on as if it was a gold gilt throne. The majestic glower he directed Joe’s way was possibly intended to wither parts of his person that perked up with appreciative aplomb. But then…Joe’s cock had the instincts of a four year old let loose on a black forest gateau. Reading the room was far from it’s Very Best Thing.

Mac looked an itty bit miffed. In a flinty glinty, foaming at the mouth sort of way. Had his lips not been pressed in too grim a line for a sliver of spittle to escape. Uh-oh. Had Joe done something amiss? Of course he had, Mac sure wasnae aiming a death ray glare at Jez. 

“Have you had a tiff? Or, did you zip him up a bit too sharpish…he looked fine till he sat down?” Jez shot Joe a not the least subtle Not today Satan expression Bianca wanted back pronto. 

“Neither…?”

“Oops…you might want to take him off for a smoke break before he combusts. I’ve got this, I’ll go and sort the rest of the arrangements with Connor and Luke. Go on, take five, I’ve got your back.” After giving Joe’s nape a quick squeeze of reassurance, Jez swivelled on his cuban heels to swing his slinky hips over to the drum kit. Where Adam was t’be found bending Luke and Connor’s ear about something or other. His manager did not look miffed, for once, which was a bit of a miracle, it must be admitted.

Ah, well…here goes. Time to pull m’big boy pants up and face the McMusic….

*2*

Big boy pants or no, walking towards Mac was still…unnerving. It didn’t help that they got a smidge less roomy with every step. Or, that Joe’s skin got clammier by the second, prickling with a sheen of sweat; smack slick, sticking his T-shirt to his back.

Mac’s glare didn’t waver, if he blinked, Joe missed it. He just sat, on his threepenny throne, as majestic as a King waiting for a pesky peasant to be brought before him. Watching, waiting, that laser gaze ablaze with burning intensity. See these eyes so green… Joe very much feared that a ‘thousand year’ stare wouldn’t be long ‘nuff.

“Hey…” Joe croaked. Tried to swallow, licked his lips, tried again. “The lads…are sorting…some stuff. I can, I mean it’s okay if I…take five, d’you…fancy a smoke?”

“Sure.” With the briefest of nods, Mac rose to his feet. Joe shifted himself so sharpish he was standing at the door by the time the bad-ass had twitched his jacket to attention. 

 “We’ll be back in ten…” Mac informed the room with a hot as hell rasp you’d have to be batshit to take issue with. No one did. Oddly ’nuff. “If I am not heading out for a smoke, you are really not going to be fond of sitting down for a fortnight,” he informed Joe with a flinty side-eye.  

“Was that a promise or a threat?” Joe couldn’t resist enquiring, as an exit line of sorts. He really should have. Resisted, that is, if the narrowing of Mac’s eyes could be considered indicative. It sure as shiver me timbers had ‘sinister’ covered. “I’ve been gasping for a smoke since we…left the loo,” he added, kneading his temples with the heels of his hands, abruptly beset by a blinding headache and the certainty that he’d buggered everything up. Again.

“Y’okay?” Mac frowned, as if he were worried, which was a wee bit weird when he’d been spitting bullets a few seconds ago. Keeping up with his mood swings was like trying to catch clouds.

“Yeah…just…” Joe trailed off, slumping against the wall with a fulsome sigh. 

“Here…” Mac proffered the packet of cigs he’d just fished from his pocket to Joe, then popped one between his own lips. Once Joe had done likewise, he bent to the flame of Mac’s Zippo, as grateful for the respite from fucking stuff up as he was for the lungful of much welcome smoke. Albeit, an all-too brief one…  

“What did I do wrong…?” Joe stared straight ahead, unable to bring himself to brave the badass in both sound and vision. Oops, the Bowie lyrics have boarded the truth-telling train to Out-of-Handsville now. “You can’t say nothing, cos Jez noticed too…” 

“You told him?” Mac’s tone was scarier than the glare. Joe chanced a glance from the corner of his eye, too afraid he’d find himself scorched by ‘shame’ to brave it full-on. Because that made so much sense. Those laser beam greens were spitting too many sparks to tell. Unless that was a sure-fire indication that Mac was, in fact, ashamed. Of Joe full-stop. Let alone of anyone knowing the truth…he valued so much.

“No. Not that it matters, when he knows. I should have told him he was wrong, sorry.” Joe scrunched his eyes shut and let his head fall back against the wall with a thud. It’s dull thump sure had ‘The Plummet of Hope’ nailed. 

“Sorry? Why? Are you worried that will put the kibosh on your bandmates with benefits arrangement? Just Jez, or Connor, too?” Mac snorted. Never had an expulsion of breath encapsulated ‘disgust’ with such utter aplomb.

What the bejeezus? What-where-why…? People very rarely flabbergasted Joe: ‘If you expect folk to do their worst, they don’t often surprise you…’

Carpe Diem might’ve been the sexy answer to the ‘motto’ question interviewers were so fond of, but that was one cliche Joe hadn’t committed. He couldn’t rightly recall the last time he’d seized anything…cept p’raps his rescue package of smack at the Priory. Suffice to say, Joe had been blessed by the most ingenious fanmail on the planet. It’s sublime sense of irony on the Get Well wishes t’die for front had been almost as welcome. Especially after enduring yet another scintillating let’s chat about how uniquely we suffer for our gifts session. 

Jez!? Good grief.  Seung would’ve taken to wearing Joe’s balls for earrings. Never had a spitfire worn a sweeter smile, or possessed a shorter fuse. It was a bloomin’ good job Jez thrived on it, or he’d sport a swift-trip-through-a-shredder look, more often than not. His cat-who-licked-the-cream-bowl-clean strut suited him so much better. Joe ‘n’ Jez were way too similar to find one another irresistible. They’d started as Sisters-in-Army-&-Navy-Stores, and not a very lot had changed. One husband and a heroin habit later…here they were. Their friendship, miraculously, intact.

Connor…? There may have been a drunken fumble here ‘n’ there, but neither of them knew for sure. Or, if Connor did, he was saving it to sell to the papers when Joe popped his clogs. P’raps he should write a ‘heartfelt farewell’ note to stash away for the scamp, just in case. That was sure t’be worth a mint. 

It was a fine thing that Joe thought fast, cos strewth, what a waste of inner slow-poking in the mists of time that would have been. One swift fast-forward later...

That was why Mac had been so miffed he’d looked about to blow a fuse? Why? He’d already made it quite clear that he thought Joe was a two-bit tart…which left the hands-off-my-stuff buzzer button Joe had inadvertently bodged earlier. But that still couldn’t account for the feel my blood enraged ferocity in those feline greens. There must be more.

“We’ve never had sex, you nutjob…let alone a cosy ‘arrangement.’ Nor will we. Jez is the most married man I’ve ever met. But, even when he wasn’t, we didn’t. Besides which, I am not the only bloke in five years who could breach that…um, barrier. And then some. So pft...put that in your pipe. As for Connor? If it ever happened, neither of us noticed, so I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if you weren’t the last man who fell to Earth who might need to. Just sayin’…” Joe shrugged.

Ha. Mac’s expression was priceless. As hot as hell too, but that definitely went without saying….

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*

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*Tell Adam*

Intro Music: ‘Cat People’.  Purrfect (ouch) for Thin White Junkie Entrance.

Uncategorized

Guest: Leigh Kenzie – Il Padrone

Hi… 🥰

I signed up to host today’s guest the moment I espied ‘Il Padrone’. I’m so looking forward to reading it.❤️

A very warm welcome to my guest Leigh Kenzie…whom I’d like to thank for agreeing to be interviewed too.

***
BLOG TOUR

 Il Padrone (Vendetta Book 1)

Author: Leigh Kenzie

Cover Artist: Temptation Creations

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Genre/s: Dark MM

Trope/s: Dark MM Mafia, Stockholm Syndrome, Age gap

Themes: Mafia, Dub-con, Captive/Captor, Forced Submission

Heat Rating: 5 flames

Length: Approx. 44 500 words/ 190 pages

Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Now that I own him, there’s no escape

Blurb

Allesandro
I’m Il Padrone, the Master of this Family, and Emilio will learn his place. I’ll bathe in his tears and watch as he humiliates himself. It’s all for my pleasure. I own it all and he’s just another addition to my collection.

Emilio
Il Padrone calls me his toy. His property. He says I can earn the right to be higher in his organization if only I submit. If only I change who I am. I may be younger, but he hasn’t seen the likes of me before.

Just how twisted can a tale of vengeance become?


Trigger Warnings: This is a dark MM Mafia with graphic violence and extreme sexual situations.

Book 1 of the Vendetta Series ends on a cliffhanger. Book 2 releases September 2020!

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Interview with Leigh Kenzie

Il Padrone Teaser Vengeance

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

This is actually a rather complicated question for me. I’ve always loved to write. It probably comes from the fact I’m an avid reader. My father taught me the value of a good book and growing up it seemed I was always reading, at least according to my family. With that my mind liked to spin its own stories as well. My grandmother encouraged it and actually gave me a typewriter to work with on creating my own stories. I put it aside though for many reasons. It wasn’t until recently that I decide to try, mainly because I lost two of the most influential people in my life. They had always encouraged me to try and after losing them, I decided I should at least attempt it, even if it’s terrifying. 

How many books have you written?

This is my first book. I had a short story that was part of the charity anthology, Tainted Tales, earlier this year. 

How long does it usually take you to write a book?

Roughly 2 months.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

I was talking to a friend about how I wanted to read some dark M/M mafia and she suggested I write it. I ran the idea past one of my alphas. On her encouragement, I went ahead and wrote a very raw scene and sent it to my other alpha that insisted I write the story. After that it was just a matter of listening to the characters and naughty plot monkeys that live in my head. 

Who are your favorite authors? Have they inspired your writing?

There are so many! Michelle Brown deserves major credit for me doing this. She’s a phenomenal author. I love how strong her writing is and she’s been such a positive influence. Claire Marta is a great example of dark and twisted, which is where I generally fall. I’m also blaming her for my propensity to use cliffhangers. I learned from the best there. Sara Dobie Bauer may as well be called the Queen of Feels. Her characters are incredibly lifelike. Tanya Chris always gives such unique work that really makes me think. You can tell she puts a great deal of thought and research into what she writes. A.G. Carothers doesn’t just challenge the norm; they obliterate it in the best way possible. All of these authors have influenced me, whether it’s from a writing perspective or even just personally by being so willing to be there for me. There are even more but I would probably be writing an entire novel just on that! 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I think the most challenging part is learning the grammar rules. I thankfully have a super patient editor and extremely detailed proofreader. The quality of my writing improves throughout the series. 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’m a pretty boring person who likes routines. I only write at my desk. However, I plot everywhere. The plot monkeys and characters become especially chatty during driving. 

When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go? 

I am a complete panster. My characters develop as they go. Most of the time they pop up from nowhere. Sometimes with an actual story, other times with a line or two. They occasionally change the entire plot on me. I try when they pop up to think about them and figure out who they are but they do what they want. I just listen to the voices. 

Do you aim for a set number of words/pages per day?

I have a very busy and chaotic life. At most I get three writing days a week generally. My aim is 2,500 words a day on writing days. 

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Finding time is often the hardest. I have a job I absolutely love but it is chaotic. I have several bosses so I’m constantly juggling throughout the day. I also take care of an elderly family member. Between that and two terrors of terriers it can be difficult to find time. 

What is the easiest thing about writing?

The story itself is the easiest. My characters are chatty and the naughty plot monkeys often get into trouble. For the most part, I’m confident in the story itself, less confident in my ability to do it justice. 

*

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Excerpt (Allesandro POV):

I watch my servants scurry around to complete my orders as I get ready for my guest. I laugh mentally because he’s definitely not going to feel like a guest. I’d care if I had a heart, but as most accuse me of, I don’t. I’m greedy, and I know it.

The bedroom is two doors down from mine. It’s a basic bedroom, freshly painted white. There’s a bed in the middle and a closet with built-in hangers. A small bathroom is joined to the room, but there’s no door. The toilet, sink, and cramped shower is barely enough to stave off claustrophobia. I’m sure he’ll complain about the door—or the lack thereof—but really, I’m being nice considering the size. Most of the comforts my previous boy enjoyed have been removed. It takes time to earn those luxuries. I like to leave some rewards in the room like blankets, pillows, and even a limited amount of clothing. It’s not out of kindness, really. It serves my purpose to give him things I can take away when he rebels as he learns his new role in life—and he will rebel.

I’m pleased with how everything is coming together. The room between us has already been fixed to my specifications—it’s a place for me to play with my new acquisition. It’s the one room that I wouldn’t let the servants touch. It didn’t need much anyway, but the cell is ready for any significant disobedience. I can’t stop my evil grin because no matter how well I explain someone’s new life to them, they always end up there. Thankfully, I have cameras in all three of the rooms, so I’ll get to enjoy the show as he breaks, and as I mold him into my perfect boy.

As the servants leave, Luca walks in holding a file.

“I have all the information you requested,” he notifies me with a disapproving look, barely able to meet my eyes.

“Give me the highlights.”

“Name is Emilio, but he goes by Lio typically. Mother is deceased, father unknown. Interestingly, Cliff isn’t his full brother, although I’m not sure if they’re aware of that. It came from the blood work when the mother was in the hospital, and of course, I accessed Emilio’s medical file. We already have Cliff’s. Different fathers,” he states tiredly. I’m sure he didn’t sleep much as he worked to find out everything there possibly was to know about Emilio for me.

He pauses for a moment. I’m not sure why he’s scowling now, but it could be due to my gleeful expression. Knowledge is power, and that’s a good find I can use against Emilio. I try out Lio mentally, but I’m not sure how I feel about the nickname. It’s not like he’ll retain his name anyway, so I dismiss it.

“What else have you found?” I question, gesturing for him to finish.

“He’s…different. Much different than your normal choices. He’s a junior in college. Very young. He’s only nineteen. Extremely intelligent. Everyone in the mathematics department I was able to speak to had glowing recommendations. He’ll be the type to be missed. Aside from his high IQ, which testing shows is among the top percentile, he’s rather oblivious about life. He’s never dated, and nobody can figure out if he’s gay, straight, or other. He’s had both sexes flirt with him, but he didn’t respond. The professors can’t decide if he’s legitimately clueless about being flirted with or simply uninterested in sex,” Luca stops briefly and shifts uncomfortably. “He’s so young, with his whole life ahead of him and his disappearance won’t go unnoticed. After the last boy…”

Luca abruptly halts when he sees the fury on my face. He knows this is not his decision to make. I’m in charge, and it seems like my friend needs a reminder who is Il Padrone here.

“Everything you said increases my interest. I’ll enjoy making him my best boy ever. At least you’d better hope for that outcome. Because once he’s here, you’re going to be the one to cover his disappearance. Oh, and instead of giving him a life to go back to, I want you to completely ruin him. There will be nothing but ashes left when you’re done, correct? Because I know you’re worried about what I want and don’t really care about my new toy, right?” I end the last question with a deadly quiet voice that reinforces my position. I see his face go grey, and I’m satisfied I’ve made my point.

It’s too bad I had to do that, but it’s necessary. At least this means Lio is going nowhere, and when I’m bored, I’ll simply find a solution to take care of the problem. With a quick wave, I dismiss Luca and decide to recheck all three rooms. After all, I need it all perfect for the new property I’ve acquired. This time, I can’t stop the laugh from escaping. Really, I don’t even try. This is going to be perfect.

About the Author

Leigh is a dark M/M romance author from Texas with two needy terrors of terriers and a chaotic family. She considers coffee a major food group and her family fears broken coffeemakers. She writes in her spare time, forced to the keyboard by characters entirely too vocal in her opinion and often falls victim to plot monkeys. In between creating mayhem with her characters and friends, her hope is to transport readers to fictional places and provide darkness with a twist.

Il Padrone Life Teaser

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Wafflish

My Way 48

Hi, I hope you have a great week. 🥰

I’ve included a bit of Joe’s part too – most of this was written today – so it’s very much a WIP. I’ll update it asap…

*

My Way

59 Mac 

 

 

Mac was left gaping in Joe’s wake, but the door was not. It began to swing shut again, so Badass McCafferty scrambled his wits together sharpish and corrected the expression on his face to its customary countenance. After following Joe into the studio, Mac nodded a general greeting to all present: now numbering three thirty-something musicians, Stu the technician…and, of course, Adam.

“Hiya, sorry! I wasn’t late, I was a smidge early, so we pottered off for a bit. Shurrup, O’Donnell,” Joe sniffed, shooting ‘O’Donnell’ a devilish smirk before he could pass comment on the miracle that was Joe Fitzgerald, in the flesh, before five p.m. Or seven. His blue bass guitar, suspended by a blue/purple/pink strap, seemed to proclaim both O’Donnell’s role in the band and sexuality…which begged a question that was no business of Mac’s and did not make him feel bilious. Let alone murderous. Even if the bastard was a twinkly-eyed Irishman with inky curls and an impish grin. 

His name didnae guarantee his birthplace, but the “Spoilsport” he shot back was pure Dublin…and if ever a pair of Irish eyes had smiled more disarmingly, Mac hadnae encountered them. As wiry as he was compact, he could probably pass as Georgie Best’s cousin after a couple of pints.

The dude standing beside Adam had the lean, lithe form of a man who lived hard and loved every minute of it. The long fingers of his left hand were poised on the frets of a six-string guitar; a white Les Paul, to be precise. While Mac couldnae claim to be a buff, he sure as Spiders-from-Mars recognised the guitar Bowie had spent the seventies ‘fellating’. It’s owner, however, didnae look a thing like a reincarnated Mick Ronson, by virtue of resembling a younger, taller, Lenny Kravitz. Shoulder-length dreads framing fabulous bone-structure, beautiful almond eyes…and as gorgeous as he was gay. The platinum band that graced the third finger of the chord he’d formed on the Gibson’s frets was—by far—his finest feature. 

The only member of Joe’s band who could be taken for a bloke you might meet down the pub was the drummer, who was a dead ringer for James Dean Bradfield. Only one of the Manics was reputed to have departed this mortal coil, thus quashing Vince’s claim, once and for all. Although, it must be admitted, Mac did retain a particularly soft spot for Richey Edwards. A lost soul so similar to a certain miscreant’s it made Mac’s ‘type’ abruptly obvious. In retrospect. A fact as ominous as a freight train hurtling Mac’s way with failed brakes.

 “I ‘spect Adam’s filled you in lads, but this is Mac, my Bad-ass.  Mac…that’s…Luke.” Joe wafted an arm towards the drum kit, behind which sat Bradders’ brother, who nodded with a grin so amiable it suggested he was the least likely person in the room to be pissed off by a Joe-no-show. Not least, if that meant he could head off for a pint and game of pool before closing time. “Mac, meet your fellow mad-axe murderer, Jez…” The monster waved a hand toward his handsome Riff Ripper (when in Rome…) with a wink at Mac. “And that scamp…” Joe indicated the impish ‘O’Donnell’ “is Connor.” 

“Good to meet you,” Mac had nodded to each of the men in turn when they’d been introduced, so he directed his next words to Joe’s manager. “Adam, where should I park my arse, so I won’t be in the way?”

“Anywhere that suits, they’re just gonna run through the set list…”

“About that…” Joe bit down on his bottom lip while sweeping that beguiling gaze around the studio, blindsiding them all with beseeching brown.

Connor rolled Irish eyes with rueful sweet-Marymother-of-God resignation, Jez’s smirk was that of a man accustomed to going into battle armed with a loaded C8 carbine, no additional ammo, and the balls to clean up. And Luke? Looked like a bloke who’d do whatever the hell it took to make the pub before last orders.  

“Oh fuck. If you’re about to cut it in half, then don—”  

“I’m not.” Joe cut Adam short with a look that all-but screamed nanananana. F’fucksakes. Mac had actually thought that. While sober. “If I said I wanted to add three songs, should I hide behind Mac? Um, you only need learn two?” Joe amended when jaws dropped and eyeballs plopped to the floor. Except Jez’s umber gaze, which glittered with the anticipation of a man who’d just caught a live grenade and sent it winging its way to victory.  “What!?” Joe demanded when Connor’s smirk exploded in a splutter of mirth. “I often add songs!”

“Ye do indeed…but I’ll be blowed if I can rightly remember being warned beforehand…” he snickered. 

“Damn cheek…you know as soon as I do. I’d have to be psychic to tell you before that.” 

“I could kill for a cuppa…” Mac heard himself mutter, with no warning whatsoever. He wasnae sure that was true, whisky would be preferable, but he was gasping for a post coital smoke.

 “Y’could kill for far less…just sayin.” Joe tossed over his shoulder before turning his attention back to Connor. “On that note? I want to cover Psycho Killer…oh, and My Way…à la Sid. That’s why I need a white tux, Adam, so don’t forget. A padlock would be better than a dog collar, if you can get your mitts on one…oh, and will you remind me to mention a couple more items of clobber? The third song is a new one, so I’ll play that solo, on a semi-acoustic cos I only have the melody down at the mo. You’re more than welcome to chip in, if you want tho’.” Joe lifted a hand to scratch his tufty head after rattling off said ream of requests.

Connor…chuckled. Jez grinned. Luke looked…ready for a pint. “Is that okay?” Joe glanced around the room, bewilderment furrowing his brow when no one threw a fit—or a guitar at him—in the wake of his rapid-fire impromptu plans.

Not even Mac, most especially Mac. My Way, you monster…? Psycho Killer? F’fucksakes. Mac wasnae sure whether he wanted to slaughter him, or shag him senseless. More. Knowing why might clarify matters. To wind him up? The reappearance of that tongue x two…fucking thousand? Further proof that even when Joe appeared to stay on script, he was plotting its subversion? If so, didn’t that beg another ‘why’?

One that really should worry Mac? Was Joe still pissed off that his feathers had been clipped, despite…every single thing they’d said, and done, since? Had it all been some elaborate ruse, and Mac had, in fact, been played like a bloody fiddle?  Had Joe just sucked up the bad-ass babysitter (albeit in every way) until such time he could shred Mac’s…ego? In the most audaciouspublicway possible? Other than a bloody press conference—which could still be stashed up his sleeve, of course—waiting to be whipped out with a bloody flourish at the most opportune moment. Why the hell else? Mac sure as shit couldnae think of another reason why he might merit a twin ‘tribute’.

*

“Is that okay? Hell, yeah…” Connor nodded. In much the manner he might agree with a lunatic who’d just announced his intention of tightrope walking from the dome of St. Paul’s to the top of Big Ben. About three nines before calling the white coats in.

The addition of two classic songs any musician worth their salt could pick up in half- hour couldnae have caused such reactions. Might it just be the fact Joe had expressed a wish to do…anything above and beyond the cursory run through of the set list between smack fixes? Or, the scattergun list of plans he’d peppered them with?  

“Mac? Am I sporting a marshmallow-pie hat I’ve forgotten to remember?”

“Assuredly not.”  Mac couldn’t help but smirk. Shag him first. Then—Christ. I’ll never be able to think that word again without springing a bloody boner—Slaughter him. Sorted. My Way…à la Sid. In a white tux. Bare chested. With a padlock. On a chain. Oh good grief. Give me strength. Thank fuck he doesnae intend to do it à la Frank. Mac didnae fancy his chances of focussing on sod all, should Joe take to the stage in a sharp suit and fedora. Strewth. Mac needed a smoke. The aforementioned boner felt about fit to bust his flies.  

“Connor? Are you good with those?” Joe asked, with a knowing twinkle that soon proved itself astute. 

“Y’kidding…Psycho Killer? I’m bloody great with it, it’s a cracking bassline,” Connor obliged with an ear-licking grin. “Luke?” he called.

“I’m in…we’ll nail it in half-hour, no problem. Y’coming over?”

“Sure. Anyone need us?” Connor tossed over his shoulder, en route to the drum kit.

“No…y’good. Thanks Connor…” Joe’s beam was as bright as the brilliance of those eyes.   “Cheers, Luke!” he called, craning his head around to include the other half of his rhythm section.

“Jez, d’you mind?” Joe asked, with a visible wince.

“Fuck no…” His lead guitarist had no sooner produced a pick from the coin pocket of his black skinny jeans, than rustled up the riff Mac recognised all-too well. “G…Am..open E…G. Piece o’cake,” he winked. “One of the first songs I taught myself…Foxy Lady, Jean Genie, Psycho Killer. As for My Way? It’ll be a riot, Engel played a blinder. A minor, yeah?”

Mac left them to their chord progressions and went to park his butt. He hadnae expected Joe’s band members to be so…personable. Christ knows why, but he’d thought they’d be less—no—More ‘professional’. Less…passionate about playing for Joe. Session musicians, rather than bandmates, in the very real sense.

Better yet…while they might get pissed off with Joe for the six-hour no-shows…who wouldnae? Their unadulterated delight in finding Joe as ‘switched on’ as Adam must’ve assured them made Mac feel strangely…grateful. Grateful? That came so far from left field as to be sat, warming the bench. Gladthat they seemed to be good blokes who liked Joe—respected him as a fellow musician, despite all they’d no doubt endured along the way.

Mac hadnae expected the…foundations to be so solid. It seemed that Joe’s fears, the problems he perceived, may well have been born from frustration at being forced to watch a friend, and a damn fine musician, surrendering to his demons. Knowing full well that there was fuck all they could about it. They were employees in much the same way as Mac. Each had a valuable role, but it was Joe’s show. If he was a no show, there wasnae one. No performance. No music. No audience to play for. No fans screaming their names too.

They were all cogs—the band formed the chassis—the base frame of the tour bus keeping the show on the road. They might all be essential parts of the engine, but Joe was the master craftsman of the brand people bought into. They’d signed up as key components of a Jaguar; then watched its inimitable essence corrode. Fall apart before their very eyes, until they’d wound up as lackeys at Joe’s Junkie Yard…and yet, still they’d stayed. 

In Adam’s favoured terms? No one had abandoned the Good Ship Joe. No matter how rough the waters they’d sailed, there wasnae mutiny in the ranks. Just a weary crew riddled with scurvy and battered by storms…but not devastated beyond salvage. Nothing that a respite, wind change, and less perilous seas couldnae salve. 

Mac really needed a drink. Preferably before he’d loaded the lads on board an Airbus A319 and buggered off to the loo with Joe to renew his Mile High Club membership…

 

*** 

60 Joe

 

 

 

 

“Magic.” Joe grinned when he and Jez were done rustling up the perfect arrangement for their guitar parts. “Thanks for this, Jez…”

“No need, this”—Jez wafted a finger back and forth between them, before swirling it in the air above his head—”is all the thanks I need. Look at those two, I can’t recall the last time Luke didn’t look as if he’d rather be playing Call of Duty. They’re buzzing. C’mon, ‘fess up…what gives? You look a helluva lot like a Fitz who’s been fucked senseless, might I add, so don’t even think about spinning some seeing-the-light fairy story. I doubt you’ve seen it for three days. I rarely bottom, but Dayum…”

Jez had been married to the love of his life for five years, and never once availed himself of the offers his sublime guitar skills and general sex godliness bombarded him with. Joe flicked his gaze toward the man who made damn the understatement of the century. Unless accompanied by unprecedented access to Jez’s spectacularly lush tush. 

When Joe flicked his gaze Mac’s way, he was parking the baddest ass in a plastic chair. A cheap as chips monstrosity he somehow contrived to seat himself on as if it was a gold gilt throne. The majestic glower he directed Joe’s way was possibly intended to wither parts of his person that perked up with appreciative aplomb. But then…Joe’s cock had the instincts of a four year old let loose on a black forest gateau. Reading the room was far from it’s Very Best Thing.

Mac looked an itty bit miffed. In a flinty glinty, foaming at the mouth sort of way. Had his lips not been pressed in too grim a line for a sliver of spittle to escape. Uh-oh. Had Joe done something amiss? Of course he had, Mac sure wasnae aiming a death ray glare at Jez. 

“Have you had a tiff? Or, did you zip him up a bit too sharpish, he looked fine till he sat down?” Jez shot Joe a not the least subtle Not today Satan expression Bianca wanted back pronto

“Neither…?”

“Oops…you might want to take him off for a smoke break before he combusts. I’ve got this, I’ll go and sort the rest of the arrangements with Connor and Luke. Go on, take five, I’ve got your back.” After giving Joe’s nape a quick squeeze of reassurance, Jez swivelled on his cuban heels to swing his slinky hips over to the drum kit. Where Adam was t’be found bending Luke and Connor’s ear about something or other. His manager did not look miffed, for once, which was a bit of a miracle, it must be admitted.

Ah, well…here goes. Time to pull m’big boy pants up and face the McMusic….

*tbc*

Wafflish

My Way 47

 

My Way

.

58 Joe

 

 

 

 

“You’ll be the death o’me Fitzgerald,” Mac chuntered, for all the world as if it was Joe who kept dishing out a body ‘n’ brain-stewing brew of badassery as incendiary as it was sublime. 

“Never on purpose,” he promised. “Besides, if you haven’t managed to off yourself yet, I doubt it’s possible. I’ll be a long time dead before you pop y’clogs…” Joe pointed out. Having become quite convinced he’d been sent an immortal mo-fo to sex him into submission. 

“Not on my bloody watch, you won’t.” The bad-ass bit out, rather than parry Joe’s words with the pithy retort he’d expected. The vehemence of his response suggested that Mac was a wee bit insulted by the notion that Joe might commit the unforgivable feat of sullying his rep sheet.  That sure made a lot more sense than Mac suddenly found his own feet fascinating. 

“Mac? What’s wrong..?” Joe asked, spinning on his heel to cup Mac’s face and tilt it up a tad, to see what was afoot (as ’twere) in those glinty greens. Crikey. It was like staring into cauldrons of fiery fury ‘n’ icy fear, cooking up a toxic stew. One that could turn you to stone with one flinty stare…or sizzle you where you stood, with much the pizzazz of lightning strike on a lone tree. The words Mac forced through gritted teeth were even more astounding.

“Don’t you dare die on me, Fitzgerald.” 

Logic (not Joe’s very best thing; part squillion) dictated that said demon deed might hog the top spot on Mac’s remit. Instinct, aided and abetted by that McMolotov cocktail of emotion? Indicated that logic couldn’t have conjured such a concoction on its lonesome, so that was a crock of shite. 

“Mac…” Nothing Joe could say would tell the scoundrel more than Mac could glean from Joe’s gaze. So, he just stood there and let his eyes do their Very Best Thing, bar none. Spilling his secrets. A skill they delighted in showing off, as often as possible, to all and sundry. While Joe rode pillion protesting his innocence; ignored by one and all (even when he was) cos his eyes shouted louder. And delighted in a spot of mischief, whether he’d done the deedy or not. It was most unfair. Thus, it was only fair that they were, for once, screaming from the same hymn sheet as Joe told the truth that mattered most. “I never want there to be no…then.”

“I believe you…” Mac sighed, scraping his fingers through his hair. “But what you ‘want’ doesnae count in your game of Russian Roulette. You know that’s true. If you hold that barrel to yer heid, yer cannae will away the bullet that might be in the chamber when you pull the trigger.” His wry smile suggested resignation, rather than wrath, when Mac clasped the sides of Joe’s head and tugged it down to press a strangely tender kiss to his temple. Maybe the spot Mac targeted made it feel so. P’raps it was the kiss itself. “For what it’s worth, nor do I…” 

For what it’s worth? It was priceless. Nor do I…what? Want you to die? That went without saying, his bad-ass rep would be ruined. This, despite the fact Mac couldn’t stop Joe from shooting up forever if he was dead-set on doing so. Other than render him comatose, so that Mac could have a kip…which seemed a smidge counterproductive, on the whole. The only other nor do I—that made any sense was—want there to be no ‘then’

He was still standing, having a bit of a blink, when the badass bent to scoop up Joe’s stuff and press it into his arms. A state of bewilderment so acute it accompanied the wrangling of Joe’s legs into his trousers and the tugging on of his T-shirt. That Mac might-just-might-p’raps not want there to be no ‘then’ was too miraculous to be true, so Joe point blank refused to believe it. 

“C’mon then, Trouble…now get yerself in there and knock ’em dead.” Mac ordered, flinty glint in full force, as if he’d flicked some internal switch. Engage Badass Button. Exterminate.

“The latter is more your department, dear sir. So much so, I’d be an itty bit inclined to ask the requisite is that a pistol in your pocket... but I’d better not push m’luck.”

Now you are lying. You have no notion of said concept, and yer know it. As evidenced by the fact you just did…while maintaining that you had no intention of doing so. I rest my case. In answer to the question you didnae ask? No, it’s not…but that is exactly where it’s remaining. At least till…” Mac cocked a brow alongside a devilish twerk of lips. 

“Then.” Joe couldn’t have stopped the big daft grin that smeared itself across his mush if his next fix depended upon it. So, it was a damn good job it did not…’cos the craving was something chronic.

Ah well, a drink would have t’do for now…Joe wanted to get the new songs down. Really Wanted To. In a shimmer of—absent for so long—excitement sort of way. A miracle in itself, when Joe couldn’t recall feeling fizzy about anything for longer than he cared to, let alone new songs.

Not even the thought of a fully loaded syringe fired him up any more. It just inspired the sort of anticipation that preceded relief. Relief so sharp it was easy to pretend that pressing the plunger down would send smack ‘thrilling’ through Joe’s veins. It was a pretty convincing substitute. For about twenty seconds…until it hit you. That was it. The best you could ever hope to feel again. The absence of gnawing need became nirvana. Peace of mind so precious, you’d sell your soul to the devil for it. Its worth beyond measure.

Until…unless…it was measured against a present worth being present for. Present. One word. Pregnant with meaning. A gift. Here ’n’ now. Mindful. A holy trinity Joe found himself willing to trade with serenity for a while. He couldn’t remember when he’d last had such a fine ol’ time of being comparatively compos mentis. No matter what Joe cooked up to cosh Mac with, the scoundrel just side-stepped it with a distraction t’die for, or batted it back with quick fire wit and a wicked grin. Lethal. It was a very lot o’fun. 

Most staggering of all? The weekend had proved something he’d feared was no longer possible: Craving something more could make the customary craving less. Less. It didn’t eradicate it. His body required it to function or it refused to do bugger all else. His brain screamed for it when it could no longer bear the chaos running riot in its absence. Ironically ’nuff…he now felt a helluva lot like that about Mac. Joe needed him. Brain and body both. Thus, with much the swiftness he’d become addicted to smack…he’d wound up with another. One he could never earn enough to afford. Literally without price. Borrowing his bad-ass for a wee while was about all Joe could hope for. 

“Mac? How long is your contract for?” Joe asked, while following him from the loo. “Only…you agreed to come to Glastonbury but that’s three months away…”

“It’s open-ended…so you’re stuck with me. Unless, of course, I’m found surplus to requirements.” 

“So, if I’m dead…or do something so dreadful they decide you’re not doing a good job? But those are just their contract terms, surely? You’re not stuck with me…so you might’ve had ’nuff by next Friday, let alone June.”

“Tell you what, I’ll do you a deal,” Mac shrugged. That was a tricky one to decipher. Casual-as-yer-like? No-skin-off-my-nose? Take-it-or-leave-it? As-cool-as-fuck? Pah, the scoundrel was quite capable of cramming at least two, three, of those into it. “I have no intention of being branded a lightweight.” Mac declared. “Should it transpire that I find you intolerable, I’ll finish you off myself. Oh, by the way…did you have something particularly fiendish jotted down for next Friday?” 

“Nuffin’ special…” Joe pinned on his most seraphic smile. Weirdly, it was not-bad-at-all; a fact that proved there was no justice in the world whatsoever. Mac was staying. He wanted to stay. Until Joe dropped dead, one way or the other, which was a win-win, whichever way he snuffed it. 

“Joe. When you’ve quite finished swallowing me…get your arse in there f’chrissakes or I’ll pa—”

“You didn’t pack your paddles…and I really doubt that’s a Gideon in your pocket. Perv. I dunno, cannae take you anywhere…” Joe tutted, shoving the studio door open. Before the bad-ass could bat that back, bible or no…

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 46

My Way

.

 

57 Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mac stood outside the door to Studio B. And that’s it—all he did—stood there like a spanner. Attempting to get a handle on whatever the hell was thrilling through his veins. Anticipation? That would’ve been bad enough, but this was worse—much more dangerous—than that. Mac clamped down on that thought, too…far too late. As it had been all along, from the off. 

About the best Mac could do was school his expression into some sort of neutrality…not least when there was no telling how many people he might encounter in there. One being the most lethal landmine to navigate, of course…and still Mac was couldnae quell the urge to surge forth with fuck all care for consequence.  

F’chrissakes…Pissed off with his own prevaricating, Mac turned the handle. Then realised he didnae have the foggiest notion whether striding straight in was on a par with walking into a darkroom mid-processing. Pillock. Pushing the door open a crack, Mac stuck his head in the gap…only to find himself blinded by the breath-snatching beam that lit up Joe’s face, and the whole goddamn world with it. 

Meanwhile, on planet earth, Joe had merely glanced up from his seat and smiled at Mac; fingers poised on the strings of the semi-acoustic guitar in his lap, half-wearing a pair of headphones.

“Hiya. Y’can come in…”

“Y’sure? I don’t want to intrude.” Mac found himself mumbling. Ludicrously, when he already had.

“I’m sure. Did you get on alright with Adam?” Joe’s airy tone belied the twinkle of mischief in those eyes. Would Mac ever become… ‘immune’ was too preposterous a notion to ponder. Was it possible to become so accustomed to them that Joe couldnae use them as weapons of mass destruction?

Mac assured him that they’d reached an understanding in a voice so tight, it sounded more menacing than he’d intended. There was bugger all he could do about that; his larynx was a minor cog in the chain of body parts wound far too tight for comfort. 

“Oh okay…” Having clearly lost interest in that subject, sans blood thirsty finale, Joe’s butterfly brain fluttered back to the imminent arrival of his bandmates. “D’you think we should whip through the set list, before I break the bad news? Or, get that out of the way first?”

“Bad news?”  His guts gurgled ominously, despite the fact Joe had mooted that choice in much the way he might ask Mac to express a preference for blue or red in a game of Battleships. Battleships? He’d lost his bloody marbles.

Joe’s vague mention of three, or four, new songs for the lads to learn seemed rather like the trail of smoke left lingering in someone’s wake when they’d walked past with a cigarette in the street. His thoughts had patently flitted off elsewhere. Precisely where, soon became all-too obvious.

“Won’t be a mo…I need the loo.”

 “Fuck no.” Mac shoved the door shut with his arse before advancing on Joe, face set in what might best be described as a bulldog chewing a wasp expression, fists clenched reflexively. Pointless, when knocking Joe out to delay what he was dead-set on doing sure as shit wouldnae result in a fully functioning Joe when his bandmates walked in.

Although…that did, in fact, seem preferable to shrugs of weary resignation. Best case scenario on the scale of annoyance that could attain contempt when they turned up to find Joe stoned, insensible. About ten minutes after being promised an improbably firing-on-all-cylinders Joe.   

Other than hand the miscreant an empty receptacle, there was fuck all else Mac could do, other than accompany him.

An announcement that—far from reaping the strop Mac expected—was met with an ominous gleam of triumph?  For the first time since the monster announced he was off to the loo…Mac couldnae help but suspect he’d just been played like a bloody fiddle.

A bitter truth that, to his utmost self disgust, didnae give rise to a flare of comforting fury. In fact it didnae give rise to fuck all, when it was too late for that. Mac had been rigid since he crossed the threshold. Possibly on Saturday. 

Right Fitzgerald…you asked for it. In not so many words, but Mac would have to be as blind as he was belated, if he hadnae cottoned onto just what distraction Joe craved. Suffice to say, dissuading him from shooting up would have been a breeze in comparison. All of Mac would have been on board with that particular plan.

“Lead the way…”

“Stu…?” Joe called to the bloke standing at a mixing desk in a sectioned-off part of the studio. “We’re just having five before the lads arrive…” he explained, rising to his feet before settling the guitar on his vacated seat.

“‘Kay…” Stu nodded, raising a hand to second the fact he’d heard.

“C’mon Mac…” Joe was at the door in three strides, tugging it open to peer out, as if to check the coast was clear in a chronic crime caper. One in which Badass McCafferty, the meanest mo-fo in the business, found himself scuttling about in a most unbecoming manner, in search of an empty loo. Or, a broom cupboard, if Jeopardy Joe had already toured enough cisterns to last a lifetime.

Mac sauntered out after him, in an effort to scupper the ‘scuttling’ part of that, at least. Excellent, McCafferty. Way to establish that you’re a cool as fuck badass to the bone. The coast was indeed clear; Adam had sequestered the lads to fill them in on the latest developments in the life and (very approximate) times of Joe Fitzgerald.

The upshot of this meant that Mac found himself bundled into a unisex bathroom; similar in size to the average downstairs loo in a suburban semi. Joe tugged the door shut with a definitive click and slid the lock into place before turning to lean against it.

“I thought you needed the loo..” Mac noted.

“I do…” Eyes wide, head tilted to his right, cherry pout ripe for the taking. “…but that would be a tad tricky.”

“Joe…? Which need did you intend on sating?  The truth.” Mac demanded, ensnaring inkwell eyes to ensure they couldnae spill a lie. Mac was strung too tight for bullshit.

The rug was promptly snatched from under his feet with a flair so audacious he really should have expected no less. It was, quite literally, breathtaking. Joe scrunched his eyes shut, robbing him blind. A few seconds of quicksilver fluidity later…he’d whisked his T-shirt over his head, popped the button of his trousers and tugged them over skinny hips, leaving Joe stark, and Mac staring, naked. Aside from the puddle of fabric at Joe’s feet and the shoes he toed off before extracting endless legs to dispense with his socks.

This left Mac standing, stranded in a confined space with a ridiculous array of porcelain wherever he turned. He sure as hell did not. Fuck. How did he ever get so fortunate? Mac had never done a damn thing to be worthy of Joe. Quite the contrary…

“Strip search. Thought I’d save you the trouble. Check ’em if you want to…” Joe smirked, poking the discarded clobber with a toe.

“Pointless.” Mac shrugged. “You wouldnae have offered them up if there was oot t’find.”

“Yes, I would. That’s exactly what I’d do…”  Yes. Mac realised…it was. Calling his bluff…which made confessing that fact…a double bluff. Or not. He didnae give a fuck. Either, left Joe in the buff. It would be downright insulting not to afford that due appreciation.

“You know damn well that doesnae matter a toss in your scheme of things. You also know just how thorough that search would need to be…” Mac reached out to flick the toilet seat shut. That bitumen gaze, ablaze with lust, agleam with anticipation. Enthralled. Enthralling.

A snatched off breath later, Mac was plastered to an extravagance of skin, fingers tangled in tufty hair crushing Joe’s lips to his own. The moment their mouths melded Mac was cut adrift, clutching liquid flame, fuelling the insatiable need to take Joe apart, strip him back to bone and put him back together. Whole. Which was fucking ludicrous. All of it. As was the fervor to taste, touch, take, give. Slake. Mac felt demented with it, a fact as dangerous as it was devastating. A need so subterranean it had never seen the light of day—or dark of night—he’d be long dead, if it had. Desire dulled sharpness. Distracted. Fuck…but he needed him. Needed this. Nothing had ever felt this…necessary in Mac’s godforsaken life. Snatching his head back, he tore himself free to drag in a jagged breath.

“Turn around and place your palms on the seat, legs astride.” Ground out as an order, in a voice so guttural it didnae sound like his own. “You’re gonnae to have to slum it, I’m afraid. No rubber gloves, sorry. ” Mac shrugged, tugging his cuffs to his elbows with a sharp flick of each wrist; as if he was about to perform surgery, or do the bloody washing up.  Yet, Joe did exactly as instructed, without a word, those eyes aglitter with God knows what. If they got any wider the damn things would devour him.

Mac slipped a hand into his jacket and retrieved the lube he’d stashed in its breast pocket before they left the hotel. Being prepared for any eventuality was…expedient.

“Fuck…” Joe grinned over his shoulder. “You’re scary, Mr McCafferty. You know what that looked like you were about to dish out, cos you intended it to,” he smirked.

“Scary, because I’ve proved more about you, than me…?” Mac asked, coating his fingers with slow deliberation.

“Y’do realise that no-one else would presume such a thing?”

“That doesnae make me less right.” Mac rasped as he clasped a lean hip with his left hand and slid a couple of—slick—fingers into Joe’s body. He might be a killer but he wasnae a sadist. He’d never got off on inflicting pain. Proving himself was far more…satisfying. Satisfying Joe? Might well prove the Everest of all peaks.  “Is this what you wanted all along..?”

“Yessss…” Joe hissed, pushing back, driving them deeper still. It was all Mac could do to hold off until all of Joe was as ready as the pleas that tumbled from his lips. He could scarce see straight, let alone focus…he could, however, crook his fingers, eliciting a far purer pleasure. 

“Mac!”

“‘Kay…” Mac bent to press a kiss to the nape of Joe’s neck before trailing his tongue down the far-too proud knots of bone snaking along his back. This while fumbling with his own flies and retrieving the lube he’d tucked into his pocket. Straightening up, Mac yanked his trousers and pants out of the way and slicked up. “The subterfuge really wasn’t necessary…y’only had to ask…” he pointed out, burying himself balls deep with one smooth thrust.

“Aaaah…’twas much more fun…for you…” Joe gasped. “…my way tho’.”

“For me?” Mac grunted, holding steady, against the need gnawing his nuts.

“Hmm… and y’know it, y’scoundrel.” Joe sighed. A sound so serene it was practically obscene. Mac did not dignify this with a response, other than easing back to unleash a snap of spine so fulsome Joe’s tufty head hit the cistern.

“Oof…y’brute…”

“I aim to please…” Mac grinned, pressing a kiss between the sharply jutting wings of Joe’s shoulder blades.

“If your aim was any truer I would’ve popped next door…” the miscreant purred.

“Shurrup and hold on tight…”  That was about the last thing Mac could recall uttering with any clarity…the rest was lost to pounding hips and white-knuckle heat, bitten off cries and breath snatching bliss. It wasnae tender and far from pretty. It was exactly what they craved. 

“Maaac….I-ah-ahhh..” Joe craned his neck around, those eyes imploring, as if Mac might—could—ever deny him. He bent to capture the lips offered up and curled his hand around Joe’s cock. Only then, did Mac fire-off the final flurry that blitzed his body in a rush so sublime it almost eclipsed the sticky warmth seeping through his fingers. 

.“Fuck…” Mac groaned, letting his forehead thunk onto sweat slick skin.

“And how…” came the sultry sigh from the vicinity of the loo seat.

 “You’ll be the death o’me Fitzgerald,” Mac grunted.

“Never on purpose. Besides, if you haven’t managed to off y’self yet, I doubt it’s possible. I’ll be a long time dead before you pop y’clogs…” 

“Not on my bloody watch, you won’t.” The vehemence of his own voice startled Mac. He hadnae intended—or expected—to unleash such a…snarl of sound. Blowing out a long breath, he clasped Joe’s waist and pushed himself up, keeping his head dipped to conceal his flaming cheeks.

“Mac? What’s wrong..?”  Joe straightened up, scuffling his feet closer together before turning to cup Mac’s face and raise it to that dredging gaze.  

“Din’t yer dare die on me, Fitzgerald.” Mac’s jaw was clenched so tight he wasnae sure his accent was decipherable.

“Mac…” His name was a cool breeze that stirred the rogue strand of hair falling over Mac’s eye as obsidian scoured his soul. “I never want there to be no…then.

 

 

***

Wafflish

My Way 45

My Way

.

56 Joe

 

 

 

 

 

“Huh?” Joe stilled his fingers on the strings and scrunched his eyes to refocus before shifting the phones behind his ears.

The reason Stu had hollered his name instantly became obvious; the tinny tootle of Psycho Killer was trilling away in his trousers. Joe’s grin of glee faded pretty sharpish when he realised that delighting in its jaunty ditty p’raps wasnae the required response. Particularly when Joe had no idea how long it had been parping away for. Damndamn-quickquick. His guitar grunted a discordant protest when it twanged to the floor while Joe was trying  to cram his hand into his pocket. Fuffing out a f’fucksakes, he sprang to his feet for better ease of access and yanked the McBatphone out. Phew...still tring-a-linging, but how d’you do the chatting part? 

Joe poked at it a mite gingerly, then bodged it a bit, heart hammering a fretful tattoo. Glaring at it didn’t work either. It took no notice, but then, Joe couldnae psycho-killer stare it into submission. It might’ve occurred to him roundabout then that he was waiting for it to stop. On accounts of being convinced it would do just that, the second Joe solved the riddle of the sphinxter clenched in panic. Thereby breaking his promise in one fell swoop the very first time Psycho-Killer came a-calling. Fuckfuck…phew…finally:

“Mac!? Sorry, I didn’t hear it! I had m’headphones on.”

“No problem.” Mac’s husky voice lapped at Joe’s earlobe, sending shivers of flame licking along his veins. “Do you want to play Glastonbury this year, or not. Your call.”

“Mine?” Joe frowned, sure he must have interpreted Mac’s words wrong, somehow, being all of a flutter.

“Yeah…yours…”  As warm as rummy honey on a wintery night. Drizzled into Joe’s lughole, hell bent on driving him demented, he was sure of it. 

“Well…” Joe would like to play Glastonbury. He’d missed it last year after having a bit of a mishap en route, then p’raps got a lot lost…when it was so many folk to fuck up in front of. He’d puttered off without responding to Mac. Mac…the only answer in Joe’s world that made sense. “Will you come with me?” Joe asked, a tad tentatively. Possibly because it was mid-March-ish. Glastonbury was still three months away. So not fair—downright cruel in fact—to ask Mac to commit to enduring Joe until then.

“’Course I will…” he replied with an audible shrug, as if Joe had asked something reasonable.

Unless…it was a ruse to lure him into a false sense of security and secure the yes they wanted …a spot of scoundrelly subterfuge. Paranoid? P’raps? Prob’ly…but that didn’t make Joe wrong.  Even paranoid peeps had good reason to be suspicious once in a while, surely? Mac might be playing along for now, pretending that he’d stay, purely to keep Joe sweet. That made more sense than it didn’t, when he must’ve expected Junkie Joe to be a nightmare on narcotics, incapable of toeing Mac’s terms. If the bad-ass was just browsing, then it didn’t matter a jot what Joe added to the window shopping list, did it?

“Will you stand at the side of the stage, so I can see you?”

“If you want me to.” Instant credit granted, with nary a pause to ponder liability clauses. No need, when playing with Monopoly monies, o’course. So why not moot a promissory note? 

Mac agreed with nary a quibble. The scoundrel either thought he was on one helluva roll or…was a stone cold unscrupulous killer. Oh. Who inexplicably tossed Joe a lifeline to cling to.

“Done. D’you wish to play any of the other festivals?”

“Do I have to?”

If the bad-ass said ‘your call’ again, it would be impossible to persuade himself that Mac hadn’t been breaking Joe in gently. Dangling Glastonbury as bait to see if he’d bite, before promptly coshing Joe with a fistful of festivals.

“No.” One word. With nary a second of sinister silence that shrieked volumes. It wasn’t even the single syllable snap to a slapped hand on the snaffle. It sounded like seashore kissing sand. So, Joe told the truth. 

Verbal vomit that possibly accosted Mac’s ears much like the scrape of teeth across tines. Finished off with a claxon screech justification, in case Mac assumed that Joe just couldnae be arsed to drag his junkie-carcass round the festival circuit. Unless frogmarched by force. “…I think they’ll be hoping I’ll throw a strop, or set fire to m’self…”

There it was, the dark dread truth. The hunger he’d triggered…fuelled, fed. By turning himself into a font of plenty for the rapacious thirst of the press to guzzle on and spew out. 

“No problem. Just Glastonbury, sorted.” Sorted? That’s it? Done ‘n’ knuckle dusted? 

No let’s talk it over later while I’m coaxing a thousand yesses from your lips, stroking reassurances across your skin…with words as hollow as a heart without hope? Pipe dream promises that dissipated when dawn crept through the curtains and Joe found himself trussed—bound by his own word—on the altar of the morning.

“Mac?” His name slipped free before Joe could stop it. He had no idea what he wanted to ask. Just needed, to say something—anything—that wasn’t this. That was theirs. Something tangible to clasp and remind himself that they hadn’t been a figment of his own lyrical fancy. “I…nuffin.” It was pointless. Dipshit daft. There was nothing Mac could say on the phone—at the drop of a hat—to assuage the snakepit of fears. “Thank you.” Anyhoo…for being you, being here.

“Then.”

Fuck. Joe’s breath cut off. He felt his heart stutter in his chest before starting a giddy gallop so hectic it left him lightheaded. Properly lightheaded, in a whizzy sort of way. For one white-as-a-sheet-faced freeze-frame second, Joe thought he might keel over. His skin broke out in a sheen of sweat, as if his pores had unleashed a sudden flash flood. One word. A whole world within it. Theirs. Crikey. Mac could bring Joe to his knees without so much as a glint of green. The bad-ass was more lethal than even his own reputation. Typical…Mac could only be surpassed by himself. Scoundrel.

“Then…” It wafted out as a wisp of wonderment. Unless it was just an echo in his head, Joe wasn’t quite sure. His hand sort of flopped to his lap as he sat, amidst a torrent of words like summer rain. 

Then

 

Wide asleep pupils pinned,

From station to station

Then. Came a thunder clap 

A steel-sprung snare trap

My lean mean lethal machine

A clash of contrasts as extreme

As whispers in the wind.

Or the soft susurration

Of summer rain

To soothe, succour, sustain.

 

As snug as the hug 

Of a drug haze

Lazy days, lost ways 

A last-past-the-post maze

Of nowhere fast.

A Nowhere Man

With no hope plans

All tattered, torn, 

So lost, forlorn

What a blast

It’s been.

The future is green…  

*

 

“Joe, y’okay?”

“Yeah…thanks. Sorry Stu…” Joe winced as he bent to pick up his guitar, plucked a string, then flinched afresh when a discordant twang assaulted his earholes. “Won’t be a mo.” A few tweaks of tuning pegs later, Joe picked up where he left off…

Hmm…I sigh

No reason why

Or why not

One last shot

To be or not 

To be

Me.

 

In your dreams…in your dreams (backing vocals taunt/refrain)

 

CH:

As hollow as a heart without hope 

Smack sodden, strung out on dope, 

And pipe dreams in the sky dreams

The lost boy left behind beams

Safe on shore Lost no more

Mon amour Dur à cuire…

 

*** 

 

As hollow as a heart without hope. What was the point in hoping when Joe would destroy it? When he knew full well that he’d shred Mac’s trust as swiftly as the dreams he’d turned to dust the minute he got his mitts on them?

In truth, the most he could hope for was that Joe Fitzgerald might, one day, be deemed better than he deserved, by virtue of stealing himself away. When all that remained of the pantomime he’d become were the fleeting slivers of magic they believed he’d managed to wring from himself.  Then maybe, just maybe, those might linger in the mists of memory…gilded by nostalgia, granting his ghost pardon.

Oh, if only…but Joe wasn’t dead yet. He’d long felt it lurking, lying wait in the wings. A living death vanquished by a gleam of green. A sinuous sweep of spine so sublime that Joe had never felt more alive in his life. A terror so exhilarating it left him teetering on the edge of a cliff, aching to fling himself into eternity.

It was a very lot like the lady said…love is a losing game. Its loss, a burden too heavy to bear. Shit, how Joe missed her. So…why not toss the lot in the pot, if there was a hope in hell that his psycho-killer wasnae just killing time.

Speaketh of the divil…

“Hiya…” Joe felt a shit-eating grin smear itself across his face when a finger-tingling fringe and laser beam greens peered ‘round the side of the studio door. “Y’can come in…”

“Y’sure? I don’t want to intrude.”

Joe was hard pressed to think up an instance where a Macish intrusion might prove unwelcome. Nope. Nary a one presented itself for perusal. Joe didn’t try very hard though, it must be admitted, cos there were way too many hards flaunting themselves for comfort. He’d just fit three into as many sentences. Odd that.

“I’m sure.” Joe had never been surer. Of anything. Or anyone. “Did you get on alright with Adam?”

“We’ve reached an…understanding.” Mac’s lips twisted in a serpentine smile as sinister as it was incendiary. It sounded a very lot as if said understanding had been prised from Adam with a crowbar.

It was the bad-ass. In the studio. With the dagger-tipped glare…

Psycho Killer/Qu’est-ce que c’est…I did it my waay…

 

“Was that as painful as it sounds?” Joe asked. “Or… should I assume that’s a ‘refer you to my previous reply… ’ sort of question?”

“He’ll be here in a minute…” Mac glinted with a wink. “A couple of the lads just turned up.”

“Oh, okay. D’you think we should whip through the set list, before I break the bad news? Or, get that out of the way first?”

“Bad news?” Mac’s sublime features had a bit of a scuffle at this point. Bemusement and worry at war with a side-eye serving of suspicion. As sexy as fuck and twice as flammable.

“Not bad-bad, just a mite miffsome…I just want to add three songs to the set list. Maybe four. Won’t be a mo…I need the loo.”

“Fuck no.” The bad-ass shoved the door shut sharpish. Literally. With a flick of his butt.  “Joe. They’ve just bloody got here.”

“I’ve had lots to drink! ” Joe protested. “You put the pineapple juice in it! That’s just cru-el.” 

“I’m coming with you,” Mac declared. Firmly.

Ah…now there was a sentence not to be sniffed at. In fact, Joe couldn’t have cooked it up better himself.

 

***