First, I’d like to thank Edward for having me at his blog today. I’m truly grateful. My new gay erotic romance novel is out! To read the first 10% of my new release, click on the Smashwords purchase link at the bottom of the excerpt!
The Ideal Side of Life
By Blak Rayne
‘Imperfect, but inescapably a love worth saving.’
Self-made entrepreneur Stephen Pritchard was given a second chance at life and love when he met Carson. However, as of late, their marriage has been anything, but ideal. Aside from the usual occupational hazards and Carson’s inability to communicate emotionally, Stephen’s learned marriage to a police officer, especially an attractive one, comes at a price.
While shopping in the city, Stephen and Carson unexpectedly run into Stephen’s former college buddy Dudley Kramer. During the conversation, Dudley insists they attend an upcoming party at the art gallery he owns. Believing the invitation to be harmless, Stephen convinces Carson to go. But part way through the evening, he realizes Dudley’s developed an unhealthy liking for his husband and the party isn’t as it appears. Illegal drugs and partner swapping isn’t something Stephen bargained for, and neither is the chain of events that follow. Disenchantment over the past, arguments, and a near fatal car accident suddenly puts his life into perspective.
A week later, we went grocery shopping then stopped for lunch at the Quay. At the end of the day, when we were loading the groceries inside the SUV, we ran into my former college classmate, Dudley. It seemed odd that we’d happen to cross paths for a second time, and in New West instead of the North Shore. Of course, the instant he spotted me, he swooped in like a vulture. I swore under my breath as Carson shut the SUV hatch. Jealousy tingled at the base of my skull, either that, or I was about to succumb to a massive panic attack. I tried to breathe evenly and keep my mind clear, allowing the bad thoughts to dissipate.
“I thought it was you, Stephen.” Dudley removed a pack of cigarettes from inside his jacket.
I opened my eyes, feeling much more at ease. “Yes, it’s me.”
“Well,” he baited, looking directly at my husband, “aren’t you going to introduce me?”
“Sure.” Even though I acted outwardly cheerful, it was a pretense to mask my annoyance; I didn’t want to introduce him to anyone and certainly not my lover. “This is Dudley Kramer...a buddy from college. Dudley, this is my husband, Carson Mackenzie.”
“You’re even more attractive in person,” Dudley stated bluntly, without a hint of shame.
Carson stared at me nonplussed for a moment, and I sensed he felt as I did, uncomfortably awkward. “Thanks,” he finally replied.
“You’ve got excellent taste, Pritchard.” Cupping a hand, Dudley lit a cigarette then jerked his head back, tucking the lighter away. “Terrance and I have a new art exhibit opening on the third next month in Vancouver. It’s all modern gay art. Maybe you’d like to attend—both of you, that is.” He grinned, took a drag, and rocked back on his heels. “Might be fun. We could have a few drinks afterward.”
“Ah…” I seriously didn’t know what to say. “Sure, I guess...if Carson isn’t working. Are you working on the third?”
Dudley interjected, “Cops are allowed a day or two off from serving the public, aren’t they?”
“I’ll have to check my calendar.” Carson shot me a questioning stare again.
“Great! Don’t worry; only half the exhibition are nudes,” Dudley said straight-faced. “Cocktails are at eight. Don’t be late.”
“Awesome.” The word trailed from my lips as I watched him cross the parking lot, akin to James Dean, a swagger to his gait, coat collar flipped, and slicked hair.
“That was minimally fascinating,” Carson remarked, getting in the driver side.
The comment oozed derision. Meaning: he hadn’t cared for Dudley. In fact, I could probably go as far as to say he’d loathed the man, though he knew nothing about him. Carson was all about first impressions and what he sensed from a person, their vibes, and I hated to admit, his judgment was more often than not bang-on.
Not a word was spoken between us during the ride home. Nothing. Lost to my thoughts, I rubbed my chin as the rainy scenery passed the window, a backdrop of storefronts and pedestrians dulled to gray. Rivers rushed along the sidewalk, emptying into storm drains. People waiting for public transit crowded under the sparse shade of a tree at a bus stop shelter. And the homeless had gathered to squat in alcoves, anywhere it was dry. I wasn’t interested in talking, other more important things came to mind, my forthcoming birthday for one.
When the SUV stopped at the garage door, only then did I wake from my daydreaming. We were home.
“That man is—” I started to say when Carson nearly bit my head off.
“An obnoxious asshole.” He shut the front door, slipped off his jacket and hung it in the foyer coat closet.
“I wouldn’t say obnoxious, more like arrogant.” I dumped the grocery bags on the island.
“I’m not going.” He grabbed the remaining bags from the entrance.
“But I already indicated we would—not that I’d necessarily meant it. It was more of a polite gesture.”
Sticking his head inside the fridge, Carson repeated, “I’m not going.”
“Can you tell me why you don’t want to go?”
“Intuition. The guy is bad news.” He took out a platter of ham and set it on the island followed by a bottle of mustard and a loaf of bread.
“Oh, your infamous cop intuition again,” I chided mockingly.
“Hey,” he said, giving my ass a playful smack. “It isn’t a joke, baby. I get a sense about people and something about that guy isn’t right.”
“I admit the guy is a conceited S.O.B., but he seemed okay in college. He never got in trouble.”
“For you, I’ll think about it.” Carson spread mustard on four slices of bread.
Resting my forearms on the counter, I watched him make us ham and mustard sandwiches. He placed mine on a plate and slid it toward me.
“Eat. Then we’re going to bed.”
“Going to bed….” I checked the time on the stereo in the great room. “But it’s only seven o’clock.”
He quit chewing and grinned. That’s when I caught the drift. Okay, so there were times when his sexual innuendos went right over my head, but I had a lot on my mind—Dudley and the real reason he wanted us at the opening night of his art exhibition to name only two.
* * * *
Another couple weeks went by, and May ended, which led to the beginning of June. And, it was the third. Unfortunately, thanks to my big mouth, Carson and I were standing curbside directly out front Dudley’s place of business. The art gallery was in the heart of Vancouver’s posh shopping district, an odd location, considering I’d envisioned it in the Davie Village area, an area known for businesses that catered to the metro gay community. Carson rechecked the address on the business card, comparing it to the gold numbers above the entrance. The gallery frontage had wooden French doors painted black, bulbous brass levers, and large bay windows masked by suspended pieces of semi-translucent white plastic board with ultra modern black script that read: Art Gallery-Private Viewings Only. I wasn’t a marketing genius, but even I knew private viewings only screamed one thing. And by the expression on Carson’s face, he felt the same as I did; like we were about to walk inside a sleazy strip joint. Exhaling a noticeably displeased sigh, he slid the card inside his jacket pocket and pressed down on a lever.
I was moderately surprised by the sound of laughter and jazz music—a tranquil and inviting atmosphere infused with low light and a myriad of male voices. I’d halfway expected to find an orgy—well-oiled bodies writhing over top of one another—guys masturbating, sucking, and fucking. Glitter. Body paint. Raunchy music. But thankfully, there were only sculptures of nude men instead, in what I assumed to be in porcelains and bronzes. Black and white photographs enlarged to poster size hung from the ceiling, and paintings were spotlighted on the walls. The setting was open and airy and seemingly innocent. Actually, a more accurate description would be harmless.
“So far so good,” I offered in a whisper, looking at my husband who, once again, gave the impression he was in agreement. “Maybe we misjudged Dudley?”
“Maybe.” He cracked a partial smile then frowned suddenly. “You spoke too soon. Here he comes.”
“Stephen! Carson!” Dudley announced, shaking my hand and then my husband’s. “It’s great to see you both.”
“You too,” I said.
“There’s a shitload of food and alcohol, Stephen.” He gestured toward a large spread of canapés on a long, portable bar, then he clamped Carson’s arm in a sturdy grip, startling him. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to steal your husband for a while, so help yourself. We won’t be long.”
Before I could object, or insist on being a part of whatever he planned to do with my husband, the asshole had dragged Carson to the far end of the gallery, where a stranger offered him a bottle of Corona, which he seemed to readily accept. He soon became the center of attention. I watched intently, sipping at a glass of wine I had snatched from the bar.
After an hour, I was positive my existence had been long forgotten. My husband was laughing and talking, surrounded by a number of men who were equally as engrossed with him. Suddenly, I had a bad thought—one that should’ve never entered my brain. I pictured Carson spread-eagled, wearing half his uniform—a combo of handcuffs, hat and boots—and Dudley riding him like a bucking bronco.
A sharp stab of rage and jealousy hit me square in the chest and I gave the wine glass a hard, unintentional squeeze. The fragile glass broke. Grabbing a cloth napkin from the bar, I cursed and wiped the blood and sting of alcohol from my palm. Pressing the cloth to the inside of my jacket sleeve, I soaked up the wetness that had run down my wrist.
Thank God it’s white wine or there would’ve been a visible mess. I dropped the broken glass in a nearby garbage can and pulled down my damp jacket cuff. One of the waiters offered assistance, but I politely told him where to go and passed him the soiled napkin. Sucking on a tiny cut in the lower, meaty part of my thumb, I scanned the gallery to see if anyone had noticed. No one seemed the wiser.
In time, left to my own devices, eventually I drifted around the gallery, speaking to the odd person, then wound up back at the bar, nibbling on cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches.
“How’s the food?” Dudley leaned on the counter.
I stood, tapping a cough from my chest. “It’s all right.”
“It was Terence’s idea to hire a new caterer.”
“The food isn’t that bad.”
“Your face says otherwise.” He pivoted on an elbow and stared at me in disinterest.
“My opinion is jaded. I’ve been in the retail food business too long.” I eyed a platter of mini quiches that appeared over-baked and brushed breadcrumbs from my slacks. “Don’t mind me.”
“Point taken. Next time I’ll call the old caterer.” He grinned. “But then no one really comes here for the food.”
“No?” I asked with faked curiosity.
He nudged me in the ribs, grinned again, and looked about the gallery. I assumed the gesture meant that I was supposed to do the same, which I did. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, unless I’d misunderstood him.
“Is there something in particular you want me to look at?”
“Are you really that naïve?” He turned back to me, touting a sour expression of disbelief.
“I’m not naïve. Maybe if you exp—”
“Throw your keys in.” He shoved a stained-glass bowl toward me, his voice no longer melodic sounding, but dead serious.
“Throw my keys in?” It wasn’t a matter of ignorance, but I honestly didn’t understand why I had to throw my keys into a bowl.
“This is a swinger party, Stephen. We’ve never had a cop—an RC—as part of the group before. Too bad he isn’t wearing the uniform.” He turned once again, but in Carson’s direction, and there was unbridled enthusiasm in his voice. “I’ve got half a dozen men here tonight who are dying to take your husband for a test drive. And the only way that can happen is if you throw your car keys in the bowl.” He switched back to face me, and his grin had unsavory written all over it. “Everyone takes a turn. Whoever pulls your keys gets to swap their lover for yours.”
My initial response…alarm. My attention shot to the far corner of the gallery where a small group of men—good-sized men—were talking to Carson, and an incredibly uneasy feeling fluttered in my chest. A swinger party wasn’t a career booster, but more appropriately, a marriage wrecker. And, I wasn’t about to watch a sleazy prick like Dudley have sex with my husband. I had to get Carson out of the building without anyone noticing.
“Add your keys,” he insisted, shaking the bowl, keys clattering inside.
“Sure—sure thing.” I hesitated to smile, hoping to come off as agreeable to the whole partner swap thing.
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Website Link: http://www.blakraynebooks.com