Monday, October 15, 2012

Another Bonds of Death Excerpt

Bonds of Death releases on Friday!  FRIDAY!  Until then, enjoy this excerpt.

(FYI, a wights-only party is a party where the undead are hooked up with human worshippers.)


On Wednesday night, Porter shyly asked Riley if he’d be willing to pose for a painting, “for old time’s sake,” as he put it. The setup in his bedroom wasn’t ideal, but at the moment he couldn’t afford to rent a studio space.
As requested, Riley sat sideways in a wooden chair, facing away so Porter could paint his back. Riley usually preferred Porter’s paintings when they included the model’s face because he had a knack for capturing likenesses and subtle hints of emotion, but a painting from behind meant he didn’t have to keep a rigid expression, and they could even converse while Porter worked. As Porter laid down the underpainting on his canvas, Riley filled him in on what had happened during the days he’d been gone, including all the details of Riley’s foray into designing baby dolls and Matt’s promise to send him more work.
A couple hours into the pose, Riley asked, “How does my back look? Is it getting too bony?”
Porter laughed out loud. “Relax, Riley. It’s just a painting.”
“I’m curious, that’s all.”
“You’re as gorgeous as always, okay? Jeez, I never understand you people with your perfect bodies who fret about every pound you gain or lose.”
After a pause, Riley reluctantly explained, “Westwood thinks I’m getting too skinny.”
“Is that why he hasn’t been coming around lately? What a douchebag.”
“How do you know he hasn’t been coming around? He usually lets himself in through my window.”
“Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard your bedsprings screaming for mercy.” He chuckled. “Or you, for that matter.”
Riley’s face went red. “I didn’t think you could hear.”
“Uh, yeah. I can hear. Mrs. Mason and I always analyze your performances when we run into each other in the stairwell.”
“Mrs. Mason? The old lady from the third floor?”
“Yep. I love her. She’s hilarious.”
“Man, you suck.” He waited, listening to Porter’s rhythmic scratchy brushstrokes for a minute before speaking again. “But no, that’s not why Westwood hasn’t been around. I think he’s… mad at me.”
“Why should he be mad at you?”
Riley frowned. “Well really, it’s all Quinn’s fault. She put me on the spot. She said Westwood needed to get stronger in order to survive an attack with your blood, and she asked me to worship him.”
The brushstrokes stopped. “And?”
“I said no. Well, I didn’t exactly say no, but I didn’t say yes, and Westwood obviously knew I was about to say no. He walked out of the meeting. And he was my ride, so Quinn had to drop me back at his house to pick up my car. And by the way, it doesn’t get any more awkward than being stuck alone in a car with Quinn.”
Porter began painting again. After a minute, he said, “In a sense, I see where Quinn is coming from. I personally don’t care if Westwood bites it, but apparently he does good work for Lychgate, so I guess it would be best for him to pick up a follower and get stronger.” He paused. “But you and Westwood are sleeping together. You’re the last person Quinn should be asking.”
“You think so?”
“Definitely,” Porter said. “You know how I feel about Westwood. He’s in it for himself. He always has been. You’ve been seeing each other for six months, and he probably doesn’t even know your middle name.”
“We didn’t see each other much for the first three months. Things only started picking up in June. And besides, I’m fine with things the way they are. He doesn’t need to know my life story.”
“But he’s already taking advantage of you, and if you start worshipping him, it’s just going to go to his head.”
“He doesn’t take advantage of me,” Riley protested. “I know how to take care of myself, Porter. And when he and I are together, I want it as much as he does.”
“I’m sure you have wonderful sex together,” Porter said. “But that’s not what I mean. It’s like when you were telling me about your big car chase. All Westwood cared about was running that other car off the road so he could save his own skin. You said it yourself; he didn’t even consider what it could have meant for you until Quinn told him off.” Again, the brushstrokes slowed. “Even though I’ve been undead for twenty years, I live as a human, and most of the undead I run into think I’m human. It’s become clear to me that most undead don’t have a lot of respect for humans. They think humans are inferior, and they don’t have much consideration for a human’s life. Since they can die and come back over and over, they forget what it’s like for the people who only have one shot at it.”
“Westwood is ignorant,” Riley admitted. “He doesn’t know any better. But that doesn’t mean he can’t change.”
“Do you think worshipping him is the way to get him to change?”
Riley didn’t reply. He remembered the last time he and Westwood had slept together. He remembered Westwood holding him down, positioning Riley’s body to his liking, and going at it without another thought. That night, Riley might as well have been a hole in the mattress, for all Westwood seemed to care about his half of the experience.
After a moment, Porter asked, “Can you relax your shoulders? Your muscles are bunching.”
“Oh, sorry.” Riley corrected his posture.
“Perfect. Thanks.” The brushstrokes resumed. “I’m sure there’s another human out there who’s willing to worship Westwood. It may be hard for him to find and seduce that person. He doesn’t know how to turn on the charm like, say, Thackary for example. But he’ll find someone. Heck, maybe you can help him look.” Another pause. “I just don’t know if you want to go opening yourself up to him like that.”
“I kind of feel the same way.” Riley gave a wry laugh. “You know, I’m going to a wights-only party this weekend. Maybe I’ll meet someone for him there.”
At this, Porter sputtered. “Wait a minute—you’re going to a wights-only party?”
“Yeah. Why is that so surprising?”
“Those parties are hardcore, dude. You don’t go to a wights-only party unless you really want to become a part of the world of the undead. I guess I figured that even though you were dating an undead guy, you still wanted to live a normal human life.”
“I do want to live a normal human life.” Riley hesitated. “To be honest, the main draw for me is the prospect of free food.”
Porter’s resulting cackle was so loud it made Riley wince. “Why is that funny?” he demanded.
“Dude, you’re delusional! I don’t even know what to say to you! If I invited you to an S&M orgy, would you come just for the hors d’oeuvres?”
“Not for, like, a cheese cube tray. But if you did something cool with smoked salmon or maybe some of those Thai lettuce wraps—”
“My God, Riley!” Riley heard the sound of paintbrushes clattering on the ground. “That’s it. I’m buying you groceries with my next paycheck.”
Riley glanced over his shoulder. “Hey, why did you stop painting?”
Porter tossed Riley his maroon silk robe. “I’m done.”
“Really?” Riley pulled on the robe, heading around to the other side of the easel to take a look. As usual, he was awestruck by Porter’s talent.
Porter’s hand lowered onto his shoulder, bringing him out of his trance. “Hey, buddy?”
Riley turned and met Porter’s gaze. His roommate looked unusually serious. “What?”
“If you’re really going to go to that wights-only party, just… just watch your back, okay? As much as I hate Westwood, at least he’s an honest guy. He doesn’t play games. Not everyone else who goes to those parties is like that.”
Riley considered his words. He knew it was silly, but the more people warned him about the dangers of wights-only parties, the more he wanted to go. He still didn’t see the harm in it. After all, no one could force him to perform a ritual if he didn’t want to. He’d go, scope the place out, and politely excuse himself. No big deal.
        “Thanks,” he said to Porter at last. “I’ll watch my back.”

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