Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Writer and the Ghosts - 5

Two weeks later Giorgio sat halfway down the stairs to the attic while Damian sat two steps down. They were both watching Linc through the open door to his room. They were leery of being any closer because of Linc’s seeming ability to hear them even when they were invisible.

“He’s a recluse,” Damian asserted, frowning. “Almost never goes anywhere, never does anything but write and eat and sleep. It’s a wonder he isn’t fifty pounds overweight.”

“Well we don’t know what he does when he does leave the house. Maybe he,” Giorgio shrugged, “goes to the gym or something?”

Damian gave a short, sharp nod. “Possible.”

“What does it matter anyway? He seems happy enough.”

“He’s not, he’s alone. No one should be alone.”

Giorgio looked shocked. “Whoa up, since when did you care about…romance I guess. That’s my thing. You’re always saying ‘leave well enough alone’.”

“It just worries me. He should be out getting to know people.”

“Damian…” Giorgio was frowning now as he said tautly, “Don’t tell me you have a thing for him.”   

“Good gods no! It’s just, well after reading the story he’s writing, I can feel the pain and longing in him which I bet he doesn’t even see. He is Alfie’ and even with all the horror in the story that character is afraid to trust the man who’s trying to help him, as much as he wants to. He’s terrified of being hurt. Well the character, but maybe, probably, Linc as well. It’s all there, between the lines.”

“Assuming that’s so, and I’m not so sure it is, just how could we help him? Because I know that’s what you’re thinking.”

Damian shook his head. “I don’t know. We probably can’t. It’s not like men come flocking to the house. There isn’t even the classic ‘tall, dark, handsome and macho gardener’ he could fall for.”

Giorgio snorted. “Baby, have you been reading those books his mother has?”

“Well…” If ghosts could blush Damian might have. “I did sort of delve into a couple she has that Linc wrote. They were hot. Not like the one he’s working on now.”

“With a sexy gardener in one?”

“Yes. But that’s not the point. He needs to meet someone and that’s not happening if he spends all his time in there.” Damian pointed to the bedroom.

“Then we have to have a talk with him.”

“Are you out of your mind?”

Giorgio shrugged. “He can hear us, so why not appear to him too. I don’t mean just show up suddenly in the middle of his room. He’s probably faint dead away. But if we talked to him first and then appeared…”

After a long pause Damian nodded slowly. “That just might work. But what would we say to him?”

“We’ll have to figure that out, at least the outline, and then wing it I suppose. So…tonight?”

“Yes, before we loose our nerve,” Damian agreed.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Writer and the Ghosts - 4

“Now I’m curious,” Giorgio said. He looked at Damian who sat beside him on the window seat in Linc’s room.

“And this is a surprise why? Not that I’m not curious as well. First, best guess he was taken for a ride by an ex lover, and not a good one.”

They watched as Linc unpacked one large box, putting the components for a state-of-the-art computer on the desk and then setting everything up to his satisfaction.

“I wonder if he’s got any good games on there,” Giorgio said when Linc was finished.

“And just what good would that do you?” Damian asked. “Even if you knew how to work that…thing, it’s in his bedroom in case you didn’t notice. Even if you waited until he was asleep he’d still wake up from the noise they make.”

“Good point, but it’s still fun to watch, if he does.”

“He’s a nerd, he probably has tons of them you know.”

Giorgio went over to stand beside Linc as he booted up the computer. A few minutes later he sighed in frustration, turning back to Damian. “Nothing, nada, from the look of it, and there’s no gaming system either. What kind of nerd is he anyway?”

“I’m not…” Linc started to reply. Then he stopped, a puzzled look on his face when he realized there was no one in sight. “Okay, this is too freaky.”

“Damn it, Giorgio, he really can hear us. This isn’t good, not good at all.”

Linc got to his feet, glanced around and headed to the open windows. “Just the wind in the willows, so to speak,” he said as he rested his hands on one of the sills and leaned forward to look outside. “Or more the oaks, but same difference, whispers through the leaves and an over-active imagination. I’ll have to remember to work that into the book at some point.”

He returned to his computer, sat down, opened a file, got up again and left the room.

Giorgio shook his head as he wandered back to the computer. “Twenty to one says he comes back with a glass of milk.” He started to read the open page of the file and cocked an eyebrow. “He’s not bad.”

“The book he mentioned?” Damian asked as he came over to take a look.

“I think so.” Giorgio kept reading. “Oh shit, this dude needs some lessons in what we’re like. Listen to this. ‘He set out the Ouija board then dimmed the lights. Placing his fingers on the planchette he asked, “Are you here?” The planchette moved to “Yes”. Even as it did a shimmering dirty green light appeared at the far end of the room…’ No way in hell would any self-respecting ghost show up as a shimmering light, period, absolute. It’s just not possible.”

“Maybe it was the spirit of a dead lightbulb.” Damian didn’t bother to duck when Giorgio took a swipe at him. After all, his hand went right through his shoulder, or vise versa, or both. “Hey, you never know.”

“Some how I don’t think lightbulbs have spirits so they can’t become ghosts, thus no shimmering light.” Giorgio moved out of the way when Linc reappeared and sat again, a cup of black coffee in his hand.

Linc tapped his thumb on his lips as he studied the page then deleted the Ouija board scene with one quick highlighting and hitting ‘delete as he muttered, “That sucked.” He ran a hand through his hair, took a sip of coffee and then started over again.

The two ghosts watched from over his shoulders and nodded with approval.

“Much better,” Damian whispered.

“Much,” Linc muttered, so immersed now in what he was writing that he didn’t even realize he’d been replying to a ghostly comment.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Writer and the Ghosts - 3

 The Prescotts arrived with bags, baggage and two huge moving vans of possessions. It took a week before everything was settled the way Jeanie wanted. Linc told his mother more than once that if she asked him and his father to move the sofa one more time, or the dining room table, or various other pieces of furniture, he might consider torching the house or something equally drastic.

She laughed it off even though she caught Richard giving his son the thumbs up after one such threat. She knew neither of them really minded. After all they were used to her occasional rearranging sprees. This one was just a bit more intense since it was a new house and she wanted everything perfect.

But when she poked her nose into Linc’s room to offer advice on how he should set things up Linc told her quite firmly, “I really am quite able to make my own decisions in here, mother.”

“I know dear,” she replied with a smile, “but if you moved the desk over there and…”

“Mother,” he said, laughing, “Honestly I do know what I’m doing. Heck, this room is bigger than my last apartment, almost.”

“Which doesn’t say much for the apartment,” she pointed out.

“Or my bank account,” he agreed. “But it’s going to get better and with luck I’ll be out of your hair before year’s end.”

“You know we don’t…”

“I know, but for my own self-esteem I have to get back on my feet again.”

“I could gladly kill that…that…creature,” Jeanie told him exasperatedly as she sat down on the edge of his bed.

“That’s a bit drastic. After all it was as much my fault, I believed the lies.”

“Next time…”

“There’s not going to be a next time. I’ve decided to move to Tibet and become a monk.” Linc waited a beat for her look of shock then grinned. “Not really. But I’m for sure not going to be looking for a long time to come.”

“I hope not too long you need…” Jeanie’s eyes landed on the standing lamp and abruptly changed tracks. “That really needs to be over there for it to be useful,” she told him, pointing.

With a nod he put it where she indicated. “Better?”

“Better. Now if you’d just…”

“Mother,” he growled.

“All right, I’ll keep my mouth shut.” She got up, patted his shoulder and whispered, “Put the bedside table on the other side,” then beat a hasty retreat, his laughter following her out the door.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Writer and the Ghosts - 2

“Behave,” Damian whispered, not that he had to, no one could hear him but Giorgio unless he wanted them to.

“I will, unless they’re totally awful.”

He was referring to the couple the realtor was showing through the house.

“As you can see it does need some work I’m afraid,” the realtor said. “But it will be worth it. It’s a beautiful old house, built in 1885, and solidly constructed.”

The husband, a man in his mid-fifties with salt-and-pepper hair, rapped his knuckles on the dark wood paneling on the lower half of the wall then looked around the large living room in appreciation. “Impressive woodwork, the wall color however leaves much to be desired.”

Giorgio hissed when the realtor replied, “I’m afraid one of the owners was rather lacking in taste as far a color choices go and for whatever reasons everyone who’s owned the place since then has just left it as it is, Mr. Prescott.”

“I think the brown goes perfectly with the woodwork,” Giorgio muttered.

Damian kept his peace. When he’d watched the men Giorgio had hired to repaint the room he’d shuddered. He’d always preferred his original color choice, a pale blue with a hint of green in it. But he’d been in no position to do anything about Giorgio’s changes, being that he was a ghost by then.

“Let me show you the rest of the house,” the realtor said as she led them out of the room, closely trailed by the two ghosts.

Forty-five minutes later the realtor and the Prescotts were again in the living room. Damian and Giorgio hovered at one side as they waited impatiently to see if the couple might become the new owners.

“I think it’s perfect, Richard,” Mrs. Prescott said. “Enough bedrooms even if all the children decide to descend on us enmasse, which they will during holidays. The kitchen is much better than I would have expected, and the back yard…” She smiled happily.

Richard Prescott chuckled. “You’ll be in seventh heaven out there, Jeanie.” He turned to the realtor. “We’ll talk it over and make a final decision once the appraiser has gone through the house, but barring anything untoward I think we’re quite interested in purchasing the place. Despite…” he added with an amused shake of his head, “the rumors that it’s haunted.”

“That’s all they are,” the realtor said hurriedly, “just rumors. Those always crop up when a house is this old and gothic looking. Blame it on romance and horror writers.”

Richard glanced at his wife and grinned. “So it’s Linc’s fault huh?”

“Apparently.” She laughed then thanked the realtor for her time before they left.

* * * *

“Beige,” Giorgio grumbled as he watched the painters at work.

“More of a rich cream, and it will look fine when they’re finished, wait and see.”

“Damian, it’s supposed to be brown. Much more atmospheric.”

Damian refrained from telling him the room would now look more like it belonged to a home, not a funeral parlor. Instead he said, “I just wish they’d hurry up and get finished with everything so the Prescotts can move in.”

“Patience, baby, all good things come to those who wait.”

Damian rolled his eyes. “When are you going to stop calling me ‘baby’? I’m seventy years older than you.”

“And you look younger than me so quit complaining. It’s a compliment, as I’ve told you too many times to count.”

“I know, I know, but still…”

“Damian, get over it.” Giorgio took a swat at his ass but since they were visible only to each other and thus non-corporeal his hand went on through which had Damian laughing as he danced away into the entry hall.

“You are in so much…” Giorgio followed and stopped cold when the front door to the house opened. “Nerd alert,” he muttered.

“Now that’s not nice,” Damian said although he had to agree, to a point.

The young man who had just entered tilted his head for a moment as if he’d heard something, then with a shrug he continued on and up the stairs leading to the second floor. He appeared to be in his early twenties, was of average height and had brown hair that looked as if he had just run his hands through it. Dark-framed glasses perched on the end of his nose, sliding down again when he pushed them up. Baggy jeans and a rumpled brown shirt completed the look.    

“Wonder what he’s like under that outfit,” Giorgio murmured as he drifted invisibly behind the man.

Damian snorted. “Not something you’re ever going to find out I’m sure. He’s probably here to check the plumbing or something.”

“In a bedroom?”

They both watched as the man opened the door to one of the bedrooms to step inside. “Not bad, not bad at all,” he muttered as he looked around. “Put my desk over there, there’s room for bookshelves, the window seat is great, no need for a sofa, just a couple of chairs…”

“Talks to himself, not a good sign,” Giorgio said. “He must be lonely. What do you want to bet he’s the writer son? Umm, Linc, right?”

“Right and no bet,” Damian replied with a chuckle of agreement.

Again the man tilted his head, a small frown on his face. Then he shrugged, muttering, “Imagination,” as he turned to leave.

Damian looked at Giorgio. “He couldn’t have, could he?”

“Naw. Well I hope not. That could put a crimp in our lives.”

“Not shit,” Damian grumbled, earning him a grin from his companion along with an admonition to watch his language. Damian flipped him off then laughed when Giorgio pointed up towards the attic where they had commandeered a small servant’s bedroom as their own. “Sure, why not,” he agreed and they vanished from the room.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Writer and the Ghosts - 1

“I’m fricking restless, Damian.”

“And this is a surprise why?” Damian leaned back, stretched, and shook his head. “If you weren’t I’d be worried Giorgio.”

Giorgio arched one dark eyebrow. “So you’re saying I’m always restless?”

“Only when you haven’t found your next ‘victim’.”

“Hard to find one when everyone thinks the place is haunted so the realtor can’t find a buyer.”

“Gee I wonder why they think that.”

Giorgio smirked. “Because it is?”

“No shit Sherlock. And after your last little escapade they’re even more convinced that not only is it haunted but that the ghost, which would be you, is crazy as a loon.”

“I’m not the only one around here,” Giorgio pointed out.

“Who’s a ghost, yeah, but I’m not loony. I don’t go around making a nuisance of myself like someone who shall remain nameless.”

“I was only trying to get them together.”

“By scaring her into his arms?” Damian rolled his eyes. “That only works in bad romance novels. In real life they run for the hills, usually separately the way those two did.”

“You gotta give me kudos for trying.”

“Someday you’re going to grow up and realize you can’t bring everyone together just because you think they should be.”

Giorgio looked down at himself, which he could since he was totally visible at the moment. “Somehow I don’t think I’m growing any older than I am right now.”

“I said, grow up, not grow older, and frankly I like you just the way you are as far as the age thing goes.”

“I hope so.” Giorgio instantly settled in Damian’s lap though he’d been across the room a second beforehand. “I’d be like totally devastated if you didn’t.”

“You’re going to be like dead if you keep talking like that,” Damian grumbled.

Giorgio laughed. “Been there, done that, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“I sort of have, and thankfully so. It was, excuse the pun, dead awful when you were alive and I wasn’t.”

“I know. I guess we can thank my mysterious murderer, whoever it was, for bringing us together.”

“Indeed we…” Damian’s words were smothered by a smoldering kiss from Giorgio which led to more kisses which led to torrid love-making which led to, “Damned if you aren’t the best lover, alive or dead,” fervently uttered by Damian much, much later.

Giorgio preened and smirked. “You know it baby.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Please welcome Michael Mandrake

The Importance of a Great Beta
Michael Mandrake

Greetings fans! I’d like to thank Edward for having me on his blog today as we do a swap. I haven’t been here in a while. The place looks really different. *stretches arms and sits on the sofa*

Today, I’d like to share with you how important it is to have a critique partner or beta. Now, some of you say, what is a beta? Well, it’s a person who critiques and or edits your work before you send it to the publisher. This person, in many instances will call you to the carpet, hopefully nicely and respectful, and spot when your plot is off, when you’ve wrote something entirely silly, and also in some instances, correct your punctuation. Even though all are important, the one that sticks out more is your plot.

Does it make sense? Are you wandering aimlessly in storyland and boring the hell out of your reader? If this is the case, the beta is to tell you where this is going.

I’ll admit, I’m a newbie. *waives frantically* I’m okay with that too because in some of my much earlier stories I made some childish mistakes. Why? Because I didn’t have a beta and in a couple of situations, the proofer or editor didn’t catch the error and it made it to print. *bangs head on desk* But hey, it happens.

Now though, I’m very blessed to have a few beta’s. Some I’ve asked more than most. *looks in Edward’s direction and points* Your blog host has beta’d for me more than I can recall now and I am forever grateful. In the most respectful and kind way, he has told me what worked and what didn’t. In turn, I hope I’ve done a good job for him and made key points he could use. I love Edward’s work and appreciate everything he’s taught me.

I also have a few other authors and friends who’ve read for me and all of them I’ve definitely appreciated the feedback regardless of the tone. Some of them have been tough love which is cool because you really don’t want your beta to stroke you too much. Find the faults, celebrate the good stuff and give pointers. The key, again, is doing it respectfully.

These days, I’m not comfortable until I’ve let Ed or someone else read it before I send it in. I might pick on him a lot more than the others. *hides behind hand* but it’s only because I love his feedback more than most.

So, you know what it is. Now, authors, tell me what you think? Do you send your stories to a beta? Readers? Do you read for an author? Let me know some positive experiences!

I’d like to thank Ed for having me on today. *stands up and winks at Ed* Please make sure you drop by my place to see Ed.


The Literary Triad -!
Michael Mandrake -
Its Raining Men Blog -

Here is a story that Ed Beta’d for me. My newest release, A Second Chance under my pename, Michael Mandrake.

Out Now

Publisher: XOXO Publishing

Author Michael Mandrake

Buylink: XOXO

Hesitant to begin a relationship with someone new, two police officers who have lost their partners in the line of duty try to deal with their obvious attraction to one another. Will one of them accept the other’s proposition to start over or remain alone because of their places on the police force?


While we continued to chat, I noticed DeClerc in my peripheral. I couldn’t help but stare at him. I moistened my lips, biting the bottom as he came closer.


“Um, hello…” I looked past the chief to take a long gander at Daniel. I stood up, extending my hand. “I’m Farris Beason.”

He accepted. “Daniel Declerc. Nice to meet you.” The handshake was firm, his hands soft like a female.

Don chuckled, “See Beason, if you would’ve been in the right frame of mind you could’ve joined Daniel today.”

While we exchanged smiles, I gawked at the pretty face in front of me. Daniel was even more gorgeous up close. The only distraction was the defect on his finger. Who was lucky enough to call him theirs? I had to find out.

“Pity,” Daniel said with a grin. “Maybe when you’ve recovered from your wild night?” He cocked an eyebrow.

I laughed, “Yeah, um…maybe…”

We’d broken our hand gestures but not our gaze. Maybe he did play for my team, but the question remained, who was he married to?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mario - A Story - 30

(A day early, because I'll be having guests here tomorrow and Friday. Please stop by to see what they have to say - E.)

As they walked back to where both of them had parked their cars Tate put his arm around Mario. Instead of feeling he should pull away as he always had before, Mario leaned into it. It felt good, right, and he didn’t want that to change. He was still uncertain that something truly good was happening between them but he was willing to take the chance. If he was wrong…well he’d survived Jonah and moved on. He supposed he could survive if Tate changed his mind and walked away.

Tate felt Mario start to tense up where a moment ago he’d been relaxed. So he stopped to look down at him and ask, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Mario replied instantly. “Why?”

Tate put his hands firmly on Mario’s waist. “Something is. If we start what…we’re starting…by keeping secrets from each other…” He lifted one hand to touch Mario’s cheek. “No secrets, please. Whatever it is I can take it.”

Mario dropped his eyes for a second the raised them again. “I’m not having second thoughts but…what if you do?”

“Isn’t that a risk we all take when we fall for someone? I could ask the same question in return. Mario, life is full of ‘what ifs’. Should we all walk alone so we don’t take the chance we might get hurt?”

Mario shook his head slowly. “That would be awful.”

“Exactly. I want you in my life; I think you want me in yours. Let’s just go with it and see what happens. I for one believe it’s going to be great.”

‘Yes. Yes it will be.” Mario’s smile was radiant as he said that and realized he believed it. He wrapped his arms around Tate’s neck then kissed him enthusiastically.  
‘Whoa,’ Tate thought as he returned the kiss with relish, ‘when he makes a decision he definitely goes with it. I think this could turn out to be a very interesting relationship.’


Two months later…

“Daddy, look.”

Mario glanced up from what he was doing to stare in horror when he saw Wil hanging by his knees from a branch of the large oak tree, dangling at least ten feet off the ground. “Don’t move,” he shouted as he dashed over to stand underneath him. “How the hell…”

“Don’t swear, daddy,” Wil admonished him. Then he grabbed the branch to pull himself back up.

“Yeah, daddy, don’t swear,” Tate said with a chuckle as he came up beside Mario. He held out his arms and told Wil to jump.

“Yay,” Wil crowed, and did.

Tate caught him, swung him around then put him down. “Time for supper so go wash your hands.”

“I’m going to kill him,” Mario muttered as he watched his son dash across the backyard, “If I don’t die of a heart attack first from his antics.”

“If you haven’t died of one from my ‘antics’,” Tate murmured against Mario’s ear, taking the opportunity to swipe a lick over it at the same time, “then his won’t kill you.”

Mario shivered, his cock hardening as it always did when Tate pulled that. “If you keep that up…”

Tate went for the obvious. “You’ll be more ‘up’ than you already are.” He palmed Mario’s growing erection through his tight jeans.

“Stop that, damn it,” Mario growled, laughing.

“And if I don’t?”

“Remember there’s a hungry kid inside and you told him it was time for supper. I’d like to eat too…” Mario quickly put his hand over Tate’s mouth. “That was not a double entendre.”

Tate’s eyes sparkled with mischief as he pulled the hand away. “Now would I make it into one?”

Mario snorted. “In a heart beat.”

“Yeah, true,” Tate admitted. He dipped his head to kiss his lover quickly but thoroughly then looked down at his crotch. “Deep breath, Mario, because supper awaits and so does your son.”

Mario took the ordered deep breath, calmed down then linked his arm with Tate’s and walked with him into their house, their home, smiling happily.

The End

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mario - A Story - 29

An hour later both men were shaking their heads when the waiter asked if they’d like dessert.

“Where would I put it?” Mario muttered as he rubbed his stomach. “I don’t think I’ve eaten this much, and enjoyed it this much, in…I honestly don’t remember when to tell the truth.” He smiled at Tate and said softly, “Thank you.”

“Thank you for coming with me. I hate eating alone, especially when I have the chance to have such a great dinner companion.”

Again Mario glanced away, as he had every time Tate had complimented him on something. Tate wasn’t going to allow that this time. He moved from where he sat across from him to the chair beside him and took his hands. Startled, Mario looked at him and Tate smiled.

“I don’t think it will come as any surprise when I tell you that I’m beginning to care about you. A great deal actually. I…well I hope, maybe, that my feelings are reciprocated.”

“I…” Mario whispered, not taking his eyes from Tate’s.


“They are, but I’m scared.” Mario’s words were so soft that Tate barely heard them.

“Please don’t be. I’m not him, Mario. I’m nothing like him,” Tate replied gently. “I promise to try never to hurt you by word or deed. Just give me a chance to prove it?”

Mario smiled a bit at that. “At least you’re honest and said ‘try’. And I know you won’t if you can help it. I suppose that’s all anyone can ask so yes, I’ll give you a chance.”

“Yes!” Tate resisted the impulse to pump his fist in the air; but not the one to lean in and place a soft kiss on Mario’s sensual mouth. When Mario returned it tentatively Tate smiled against his lips then slipped his tongue out to trace the crease. Only the low cough from beside him made him stop. He looked up into the amused eyes of their waiter.

“I was going to ask if you wanted more coffee,” the man told him, “but I think you have other things on your mind at the moment.”

While Mario turned bright red Tate asked the waiter for the bill, which the man promptly set down on the table in the usual check presenter. Without looking at the bill, Tate laid a credit card on top of it and the waiter left.

“Tate,” Mario admonished, “you should always…”

Tate put a finger over his lips. “I know, I know. Next time I will. All right?”

Impulsively Mario nipped his finger and laughed as Tate pulled it back in surprise. “That’s what you get for shushing me.”

Tate chuckled. “And I deserved it.”

The waiter returned then, Tate signed the slip, adding a sizable tip, before he asked Mario, “Are you ready to leave?”

“Yes. This has been wonderful but I suspect we should get back so I can go pick up Wil and head home.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tate opened the restaurant door and followed Mario inside. The host greeted them, nodding when Tate gave his name then ushered them to one of the candlelit tables, this one in a small nook off to the side of the main room.

“You really are trying to impress me,” Mario said a few minutes later as the waiter poured their wine once Tate had deemed it acceptable.

“Is it working?”

Mario took a sip of his wine before he replied. “In its own way, yes, although you didn’t have to go to this extreme. I’m really more of a fast-food type of guy.”

Tate quirked an eyebrow. “I suspect that’s by necessity, not choice.”

“Yeah, I’ll admit to that.” Mario twisted the stem of his glass between his fingers while he looked around the restaurant. “This is nice.”

Tate was very tempted to reply, ‘Not as nice as the man sitting across from me,’ but took the prudent course and just said, “Yes it is. The people here have a way of making you feel welcome and special, even,” he chuckled with a nod to a couple just being seated, “if you’re in jeans.”

“I’m not much better dressed than them.” Mario glanced down at his white shirt and dark slacks, both of which had seen better days even if they were still clean despite his having worked in them all day.

“You look just fine. I might even say perfect.”

“Not hardly.” Mario retorted, but his face lit up in a smile at the compliment.

Tate took a drink of his wine, happy to see that smile, then said, “Perhaps we should decide what we want?”

‘You,’ flashed through Mario’s mind and he almost said it aloud. He could feel the heat as he turned red and hoped in the dim light Tate hadn’t noticed. Quickly he picked up the menu. He swallowed hard when he saw the prices and searched for something that wouldn’t empty Tate’s bank account.

Tate watched with amusement. He didn’t know what had made Mario flush bright red but he did understand the sudden gulp when the younger man looked at the menu. Now he just had to figure out how to get him to order what he really wanted rather than the cheapest meal. “Are you more a steak man, or a fish lover?” he asked for starters. “Personally I’d take a good thick steak over anything else in the world, given my druthers.”

Mario chuckled. “The last time I had steak was, I think, at a barbeque at Maria’s and that was last summer. Fish I can take or leave alone.”

“So no shrimp cocktail for starters?” When Mario shuddered Tate laughed. “I’d say more leave alone than take from that reaction. Tell you what, since I’ve been here and know what’s good, why don’t I order for both of us.”

Mario’s mouth tightened. “I’m quite capable of making my own decisions.”

“Whoa,” Tate said softly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

After he’d taken a deep breath Mario replied with downcast eyes, “No, I’m sorry. It’s just that the few times Jonah took me out he always did that, like I was some kid who didn’t have enough sense to know what I should have.”

“I understand completely. Believe me I don’t think that about you, not at all. I would however recommend the fillet mignon, that’s what I’m having.”

Mario nodded then essayed a small smile. “At least you didn’t say the Porterhouse. I mean come on, fifty three dollars? It’s just meat.”

Tate laughed. “Now on that I’d agree, so the fillet, and how about the baked potatoes with garlic and parmesan? Do you like asparagus?” When Mario shuddered Tate said, “Guess not. The green beans are good the way they do them.”

“Those I could handle,” Mario admitted. “Asparagus is just, as Wil says, ‘Yucky’.”  

Tate smiled as he waved their waiter over. He placed their orders, taking asparagus for himself and added cheese fondue for the appetizer once he’d checked with Mario to be certain that was agreeable with him.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mario - A Story - 27

For the next few days Mario was on tenterhooks as he waited for the other shoe to drop. Every time the phone rang he expected it to be the detectives ordering him to come in for questioning again. Forson did call once, but just to inform him he could pick up his car from the impound lot. Mario did, happy to have it back again. Cabs definitely ate into his budget.   

Tate stopped by twice, just to say ‘Hi’ before telling Mario, and Wil, that he was so busy he couldn’t stay for more than a couple of minutes. The second time it happened, Mario watched his walk away, back to his car, and figured what he’d thought might have been the beginning of something between them was just Tate helping him stay sane until it was over.

So when Tate showed up at the restaurant just before closing time Friday afternoon Mario put it down to just another drive-by ‘Hello/Good-bye

Tate took a vacant seat at the end of Mario’s counter and smiled at him as he approached with his order book ready. “I’m not…”

“Staying, yeah I know,” Mario broke in.

“No, I was going to say I’m not hungry, yet. So I was thinking when I get there I’d like some company while I eat.” He looked seriously at Mario. “Would you care to be that company?”


“I think you should say yes since I’ve already arranged for Maria to pick Wil up from school, and made dinner reservations, and I’d feel really stupid if you said no.”

“You what?” Mario looked at him in shock then a small smile played over his lips. “This is for real?”

“For very real, so how about you do whatever it is you have to do to get out of here.” Tate rested his elbows on the counter and smiled back at Mario, “Because I’m not leaving without you.”

* * * *

Tate sighed in relief, but to himself, when Mario actually reappeared from the kitchen with his jacket on, ready to leave. He had almost expected him to change his mind and vanish out the back door of the restaurant.

“Ready?” Tate asked as he got up when Mario stopped beside him.

“Ready.” Mario looked about as nervous as Tate felt, Tate just hid it better.

They left the restaurant but rather than returning to his car Tate said it was nice enough to walk to where they were going. As they walked Tate told Mario stories about some of the clients he’d dealt, embroidering their reasons for hiring him until he managed to make Mario laugh a time or two at the inanities of the situations. ‘Laughter looks good on him,’ he thought, although he wouldn’t tell Mario, figuring it would just embarrass him at best or worse make him freeze up just when he was starting to relax.

“Here we are,” Tate said when they turned the corner onto one of the side streets and he pointed to their destination.

“Tate, I know about this restaurant and it’s too expensive. No. No way.”

“I think it’s my choice isn’t it? And I’m not doing it to impress you. Well…maybe a little, but honest I’ve eaten here before. The food’s great, the atmosphere is perfect, just please let me do this.”

Mario bit his lip then nodded. “Alright.” He smiled up at Tate. “I’ve always wondered what it was like.”

“And tonight you get to find out.”