Friday, October 12, 2012

Bonds of Death - Opening Excerpt

Bonds of Death releases in exactly one week!  I can't believe how quickly the time has come.  I'll be at GayRomLit from 10/17 until 10/21, so I'll be out of town on the day of the release, but I'll be sure to find some time to post news and excerpts and other fun stuff regardless.

For today, I'm sharing an excerpt.  This is opening of Bonds of Death, and we get to find out what Riley, Westwood, and Porter have been up to for the past six months since the end of Art of Death.


A wash of yellow light spread across Westwood’s arm, hitting with a pinprick highlight at the height of his bicep and diffusing over his taut bronze skin. Riley feathered the surface of his canvas with his dry fan brush, blending the previously rough brushstrokes for a softer finish. For a moment, he sat back to admire his subject at the far end of the bedroom. Westwood’s face was partially buried in the crook of his hefty arm, exposing the small star-shaped tattoo on the back of his shoulder. His legs were bent as he lay on his stomach. The white bedsheet laced between his muscular thighs barely covered his nudity.
A better artist would have been able to portray the chasteness of the scene, but to Riley, there was no chaste way to look at Westwood’s body, even if his most intimate areas were covered. Riley knew too well the touch of those hands, the power in those limbs. With all his bulk, Westwood would have been plenty strong as a mere human. But Westwood was no mere human, and the jutting, vein-laced curves of muscle Riley replicated on canvas did little to portray the true strength within his lover’s seemingly mortal frame.
He attempted a few more brushstrokes, but he couldn’t keep his mind from wandering, from remembering the way those arms felt last night when they squeezed him tight and pushed him into the mattress.
Five years ago, when he was in college, he could have painted an attractive nude male model without batting an eye. Then again, none of those models were anything like Westwood.
As his eyes lingered on the bare-skinned man amidst the scattered sheets, he began idly chewing the back of his paintbrush.
Blech. Oil paint doesn’t taste good.
He scrubbed at his tongue and spat. Disgusting.
Sheets rustled, and Westwood groaned like a disgruntled wolf. He raised his eyes, fixing his coal-black gaze on Riley. “The fuck are you doing?”
“Nothing!” Riley squeaked, attempting to turn his easel as if he were painting the bare wall.
Westwood scrambled up to his seat, pulling the bedsheets close in an unwitting caricature of a demure maiden. “Were you painting me while I slept?”
“Goddamn, Riley. Since when did you become a creeper?”
Riley scowled, tossing his paint rag onto the drop cloth he’d stretched across the carpet. “I think I like you better when you’re not awake.”
“Spoken like a true creeper.”
Riley scooped up his paintbrushes and shoved them into a bucket before reaching for the canvas. “Whoa!” Westwood called, rising from the mattress. “You’re not going to let me see?”
“Of course not.” Riley tried to shield the canvas with his body as Westwood approached. “You know oils aren’t my strength. I’m a digital painter. I’m really rusty when it comes to traditional media.”
“Excuses, excuses. Let me see.”
“But I….”
Westwood shoved him aside indelicately, eyeing the canvas with all the artistic discretion of a teen flipping through a Playgirl magazine. “Hmm. You got my nose wrong.”
“Your nose was smushed into the pillows. I got it exactly the way it looked.”
Westwood gave a careless shrug. “You know, this is the first time I’m actually seeing your artwork.”
“I guess you’re okay at it. At least you’re better than me.”
“I should hope so. I have a degree in this, you know.”
“Porter doesn’t have a degree, but he’s still better than you.”
“Porter only doesn’t have a degree because he keeps dying before he can get through college. He may look like he’s only twenty, but he’s got decades of practical experience more than me.” Riley whipped the canvas out of Westwood’s hands. “And did I ever tell you you’re kind of a dick?”
Westwood tapped the surface of the painting. “You got that part wrong too.”
“You were on your stomach.”
Westwood raised his eyebrows as Riley shoved the canvas into a narrow gap behind his computer desk. “I don’t see why you have to paint me in the first place. Why don’t you grab a bunch of fruit and stick it on your table and paint that? Isn’t that what you artist types do? Still life paintings?”
“I don’t think a couple packets of ramen and a bag of frozen vegetables would make for a very compelling still life.” He frowned. “In case you forgot, I’m no longer the kept boyfriend of a rich lawyer. I’m the single unemployed artist who moonlights as a nude model at Prestwick College of Art. Fresh fruit is a luxury I can’t always afford.”
Riley idly examined a spot on the bedroom wall where the painters had spackled over a flattened roach. Gems like this were plentiful in the new two-bedroom apartment he shared with Porter Gomez. It had only been a few weeks since they’d moved in, but he was already beginning to wonder if it was even worth the minuscule amount he’d have to scrape together for rent every month.
“I’m not so sure about this apartment,” Westwood said as if reading his mind. “I thought I heard something in the middle of the night, but I was too tired to check it out.”
“Oh, that was the police. They arrested the crack dealer downstairs.”
“This was all I could afford,” Riley said defensively. “I couldn’t stay at Nick’s place, and staying with Mr. Tobias, my old painting teacher from Prestwick, was just awkward. I mean, unless you want me to move in with you….”
“Don’t even joke about that.” Westwood gave Riley a shove that was only half-playful.
Riley finished gathering his paints in uncomfortable silence. In truth, he didn’t want to move in with Westwood any more than Westwood did. The way Riley saw it, things were fine as they were. He went about his daily business, worked, chatted with his roommate, tried to navigate through the daunting world of networking with other artists, and occasionally woke up to Westwood climbing through his window and tackling him—an impressive feat considering the apartment’s location on the second floor. Riley was happy enough with their current arrangement. Even after six months, it felt like he was in a brand new relationship. Sex and independence, along with the occasional conversation. It was exciting, and he didn’t spend enough time with Westwood to get annoyed by his personality.
“You have to work today?” Westwood asked.
“Yeah.” Riley finished stowing the last of his painting supplies and collapsed his easel. As he folded the drop cloth into a crinkly square, he added, “I thought it’d be nice to get a little bit of painting in before I have to be on the other side of the easel at nine.” He glanced at the alarm clock on his thirty-dollar IKEA nightstand. “Speaking of which, I have to hop in the shower, so unless you want to join me, you should probably get going.”
“Your shower’s too small. I’ll go. But I want to get a glass of water first.”
Westwood stopped midstride, his hand on the doorknob. “What?”
“I don’t want you to scare Porter again.”
Two days earlier, Westwood had wandered naked out of the bedroom exactly as he was about to do now. Porter had been at the fridge, and upon seeing Westwood, he’d yelped like a startled Chihuahua and dropped an entire milk carton on the floor. It had been a rare half-gallon carton of organic milk from Whole Foods that Riley had been looking forward to using in his coffee. But as sad as he’d been to say good-bye to the five-dollar milk, he’d felt even guiltier for having put Porter in that uncomfortable situation.
“Porter’s had twenty years to get used to seeing me,” Westwood said.
“Not in his house without warning, though. I don’t blame him for being freaked. You were the one who took his mortality, after all.”
“You kill a guy once, and he never gets over it,” Westwood muttered under his breath.
“Twice,” Riley corrected.
“Whatever. Anyway, I don’t hear him out there. I’m going.”
Riley pulled on a robe as he followed Westwood to the door. When he stepped out into the hallway, he saw no signs of his lanky, shaggy-haired roommate. Porter usually slept late, but across the cramped living room, Riley could see that his door was wide open and the bedroom unoccupied. Unlike Riley’s room, which was still lined with unpacked boxes, Porter’s room was bare, instantly displaying his characteristic lack of personal effects.
“You think he slept over at the bar?” Riley asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t care.”
Riley cringed as Westwood helped himself to Sarasota’s questionable tap water. He then watched the water disappear from the glass in four impossibly large gulps. As Riley turned toward the bathroom, Westwood caught his arm. “One more thing before I go.”
Westwood tore open the belt of Riley’s robe, lifting him off the ground and slamming him on his back across the kitchen table. He whipped off Riley’s underwear and grabbed him below the knees, pulling him close. With a mischievous laugh, Riley dug his fingers into Westwood’s shoulders and readied himself for the ride.

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