Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #13 (5.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Last week, Ryan found out a couple of things. First, that he's going to be rooming with Ben, and more importantly Ben knows about his book. The house tour concludes in this chapter and on to meet the rest of the band. See how that goes in this week's In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to! Their links follow my tale!

In Pieces #13 (5.1)

Ryan found his concentration completely shattered by the revelation that Ben not only had read Brothers but had seen through the apparent fictional fa├žade to the heart of what lay beneath. He’d be lying to himself if he said he had no idea what Ben was talking about, because he did. He’d written it, hadn’t he? Maybe at first glance his book was about two actual brothers, which he and Ben weren’t. And maybe nothing had ever happened between Ben and him, which it certainly had in the novel. But there’d been something there between them, something palpable, when they were teens. Something that drew them together.  Which made Ben’s sudden disappearance all the more painful. And why he could never talk about it to anyone. Especially not his father.

Brothers had been catharsis of a sort. It was him trying to come to grips with feelings he didn’t know how to deal with. Maybe he should have published it under a pseudonym. Not that it would have made a difference. He’d had his book torn up by a small group of vicious so-called reviewers on a popular book site. They’d trashed the story and trashed him as well. Never mind that none of them knew him, or had any idea what he was like. One review was particularly galling because it had been written by someone who admittedly hadn’t even read the book, but based it on a friend’s review. They’d called him perverted and sick. Smeared his heritage and shredded his family name.  One person had even accused him of being a woman pretending to be a man.

He didn’t respond to their accusations, didn’t even try to refute any of it. What use would it have been? He kept it all from his father, but Cassie knew and she tried to make him feel better, even if she didn’t know the whole story behind his novel. Nothing he’d done since then had fared very well. Publishers rejected him right and left. The last couple of books he’d had accepted ended up with fly-by-night outfits who took the money and ran. He didn’t know what was worse—not making any money or making it and having it stolen. He’d just about given up on the idea of being a successful author when this opportunity had arisen, a chance to make a fresh start.

And that fresh start turned out to be Ben. Ryan had come full circle to where he’d started. So how would the story end this time?

Ryan pushed the thought aside and followed Ben downstairs, across the veranda, to the back of the house. A driveway wound around from the front of the house. The drive led to a large garage, where an assortment of vehicles was housed in several bays, before it branched off to a smaller building.

“This was just used for storage at one time,” Ben explained. “Cam renovated it for the band’s use, put in acoustics and stuff. He’s a great guy. I’m sure you’ll like him.”

“I’m sure I will,” Ryan said automatically. He hoped his voice didn’t reflect the perturbation that was fighting for dominance in his soul.

Ben opened a small door and beckoned Ryan to follow him inside. The interior was surprisingly dim after the bright Louisiana sun. Ryan stopped just inside the door to let his eyes adjust. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, surely not a light show? He wasn’t even sure who did the lighting, come to think of it. His knowledge of bands was limited to what he’d seen at concerts.

As he grew accustomed to the dimmer light, he noticed a small stage, empty except for various instruments—a couple of guitars, a drum set, and a keyboard. But no musicians.

Glancing around, he quickly spotted the rest of Salvation.  A lounge area had been set up, probably for the band to relax between rehearsals. A comfortable-looking couch, a love seat, and several ottomans. Aiden and Abby sat together on the couch. Keanu paced back and forth before the love seat and the man who lounged there. This must be Deacon, Ryan reasoned by process of elimination. He’d met everyone else, and this man was too young to be Cameron.

“I told you they’d come out here, you worry too much.” Deacon unfolded himself from the loveseat and rose, patting Keanu’s cheek as he passed by.

Deacon was a very striking young man, Ryan noticed, with skin the color of very lightly creamed coffee. Dark curly hair fell to his shoulders in a wave. He moved with a singular grace toward Ben and Ryan. “I’m sorry if my significant other made a bad first impression,” he said, directing his attention to Ryan. “He means well. You must be Ryan, I’m Deacon. Good to meet you.” He held out his hand and Ryan took it. Deacon’s hand was both firm and soft. He had mocha eyes and a killer smile.

“Nice to meet you,” Ryan replied.

“Now you’ve met all of us,” Ben said, reclaiming Ryan’s hand somewhat possessively. “Now you get to hear us play.”

to be continued

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #12 (4.4)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan isn't sure what's going on, but he's going along... for now. He's happy just to be with Ben again, as he continues the house tour. They end up upstairs, where Ben apprises him of the sleeping arrangements. Is anyone really surprised? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to check out the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale. Enjoy!

In Pieces #12 (4.4)

If the living room was the naughty pleasure room, then the family room was the comfort room.  Plump pillows were scattered invitingly across the floor. Ryan could just imagine the members of the band ignoring the more conventional armchair and sofa in order to lounge on the floor, sprawling over the pillows and doing whatever they did to relax between gigs. A large screen TV hung on one wall, inbetween a built-in bookcase and a well-stocked bar. Ryan could see himself writing in this room.  If it wasn’t too noisy, that is. Opening from the family room was a breakfast area and then the kitchen. Ryan half expected to see a housekeeper or cook lurking there, but no such person was in sight. Maybe the band fended for themselves? Or maybe she existed but she was in another part of the house right now.

She or he. Ryan reminded himself not to be sexist. No reason a housekeeper couldn’t be a man, was there? “Where to now?”

“I’d like to take you upstairs before we go out back and join the others,” Ben said. “You can see the veranda then. C’mon, this way.”

“I’m sorry for throwing you off your schedule,” Ryan apologized as Ben led him through a doorway, back into the foyer, and up the staircase he’d seen when they first arrived.

“Don’t pay attention to Keanu,” Ben said. “He gets dramatic sometimes. He also gets over it. We’re fine.”  He shot Ryan a reassuring smile. “There are only four bedrooms, by the way, so everyone’s doubling up. Except Cameron, since it’s his house.”

It had never occurred to Ryan that he might end up with a roommate. He hadn’t shared a room since he was a kid, and they’d put Ben into his room.  He’d hated that… at first. “That brings back old times.” He laughed, maybe a little nervously. Ben didn’t laugh in return. Maybe he was remembering Ryan’s initial reaction to his arrival. How he wished he could take back the actions of his younger, more stupid self.

“Cameron’s room’s there”—Ben waved toward a closed door—“It’s the master bedroom, has its own bath and everything. “Down there”—Ben gestured along the hall to a room at the far end—“is where Aiden and Abby sleep. They have their own bath. We decided that would be best, give Abby a little privacy. Cam said she can use his room when he’s not around.”

“That’s generous of him,” Ryan commented.

“Yeah, he’s like that.” For a moment, Ryan thought he was going to add something else, but he didn’t.
Ben pushed open a door across the hall from the master bedroom. “This is where Keanu and Deacon sleep. This room shares a bath, right through here.” He led Ryan across the room to a small hallway. “Extra towels over there, and bath here, on the other side. Shower in tub.  Only one mirror, I’m afraid. And here”—he opened a door at the end of the hall—“is the fourth bedroom.”

Ryan entered the room, just behind Ben. Two twin beds, two dressers, and two windows overlooking the back of the house. On one bed sat his suitcase. This must be his assigned space. If so, that meant… He glanced at the other bed, and then at Ben. “Does this mean…. Are you and I…?”

“Roommates?  Yes. At least while we’re staying here. I hope it’s not a problem. I mean, Deacon and Keanu are a couple, so of course I gave them their own room. And I didn’t think we should put Abby with anyone but her brother. I hope you don’t mind?”

“Mind? Of course not,” Ryan assured him. What he was saying made sense. Not like they hadn’t done it before.

“I left you half the closet,” Ben said. “But we each have a dresser. You can put your toiletries in the bathroom. There’s plenty of room, at least right now,  although it remains to be seen how that’ll work on show nights if we all try to put on our make-up at the same time.” He winked at Ryan, who couldn’t help but laugh.

“Don’t worry, I don’t wear any,” he said. “I’ll leave it to you guys.”

He glanced around the bedroom. It wasn’t quite as large as the first room they’d gone through, but not by much. The wallpaper was the same small floral pattern interspersed with stripes which seemed to be repeated all throughout the second floor. Everything seemed to be well taken care of. A comfortable enough room for whatever time they would spend here.

Ben had already set a few items on his dresser, including a couple of worn-looking paperbacks. Ryan frowned. Those covers looked familiar. Maybe something he’d read before? He stepped toward the dresser, focused on the books, then stopped in surprise. No wonder he recognized them. They were his books. What in the world was Ben doing with those?

Ryan’s eyes widened as the full import of what he was seeing struck him. Ben knew about Brothers. If the book’s appearance was any indicator, he’d read it, too—more than once. He should have realized Ben knew about his books. He hired him in his capacity as an author, right? He just hadn’t expected him to own a copy of any of them. Especially not the one that had proven to be the most controversial. The one that had all but ruined his career.

“Maybe you can sign it for me,” Ben said softly. He’d come up behind Ryan, who’d been too focused on the books to note. He rested his chin on Ryan’s shoulder and gave a small sigh.

“I’ve been so lost without you, Ryan. I was afraid I’d never see you again. I found your book, and I knew you felt the same way too. I knew we’d end up together again, somehow.” He tilted his face toward Ryan, blue eyes glittering. “Forever, this time,” he whispered.

to be continued

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #11 (4.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ben is showing Ryan around the vacation home which will be the base for Salvation's tour, and shows Ryan some of Cameron's naughty knickknacks.Ryan feels that something is wrong with Ben but when he tries to find out, they are interrupted. See what's happening in this week's chapter of In Pieces. And don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to!

In Pieces #11 (4.3)

“We’ve been waiting for you, Ben. We need to quit screwing around, we need to practice, dude.”

 Despite his words, Ryan had the impression that he wasn’t upset, just impatient. He gave off definite energy vibes, as if he was overly caffeinated or something. Before Ben had a chance to make any sort of reply, the newcomer had diverted his attention to Ryan. Changing course, he circled him, eyeing him curiously.

“Well, well, what do we have here? Or should I say who? Don’t tell me. You must be that fabulous writer Ben’s been raving about so much. I was beginning to wonder if such a perfect creature even existed.”

Ryan felt his cheeks warm. He couldn’t help but wonder what Ben had been saying about him, but it must be good, right?

“Guilty as charged,” he confessed. “Writer. Not sure about fabulous, and definitely not perfect.”

“Keanu, don’t harass Ryan before you even get to know him,” Ben said. “Give him a chance to get used to everyone without scaring him off, if you don’t mind.” He rose from the couch, all signs of his previous despair having disappeared, and put a protective arm about Ryan. “We just got in from the airport. I was giving him the tour of the house. So cool your jets, please, if you don’t mind.”

Never missing a beat, Keanu turned gracefully toward Ryan and held out his hand. “Then I’ll just introduce myself and play nice. Keanu Nakamura. Aka Bishop. I play bass.”

Ryan took the hand that was being offered and gave it a shake. Keanu’s hand was warm and firm. His dark eyes were slightly uptilted at the edges, giving him an exotic look which matched his golden skin fairly glowed.  Was this band filled with nothing but beauties?

“Ryan Fremont,” he said in return. “Writer. Oh wait, you just said that. Sorry.”

“No worries, it’s all good.” Keanu dropped Ryan’s hand and turned back to Ben. “I can see why you took your time getting back,” he said with a wink. “I would too, if it meant getting to spend time with such a cutie.”

“I wouldn’t let Deacon hear you say that,” Ben retorted, a slight edge to his voice. “He might not understand.”

Keanu laughed. “Deacon is the least jealous person I know. He knows he’s the only one for me. But he also knows I’m not blind. And neither is he. I think we’ll both enjoy spending time with you, Mr. Writer.”

Ryan felt Ben’s arm tighten just a fraction. Surely that wasn’t in response to anything Keanu said? Than again, Ben had always been somewhat possessive when it came to Ryan. Once they overcame their initial antipathy, that is. Ryan found himself leaning in to Ben just a little bit, even if by doing so, he was reinforcing his behavior. He found Keanu to be just a little… overwhelming.

“Where’s Deacon now?” Ben asked.

“Out back, with Aiden and Abby. Rehearsing. We’d sound better if you joined us. Naturally.

Ben’s grip tightened a little more. Tension seemed to flow through him, sending an unexpected shock through Ryan, which left him speechless. What was really going on here? Other than some strange kind of pissing contest?

Without warning, Ben removed his arm and stepped away from Ryan, toward the bass player. He drew himself up to his full height, standing toe to toe with Keanu. The other man was slightly taller, but something about Ben seemed to create the illusion of height, as if they were actually eye to eye.

A long moment passed as they stared one another down. Then Keanu shifted his gaze to the floor, as if something very interesting there had just caught his attention.

“I’m going to finish giving Ryan the tour of the house and help him get situated. Then we’ll both be out. Tell the others. Are we clear?”

Keanu nodded. “Perfectly,” he said in a quiet voice, a far cry from his earlier cheeky tone. Ryan glanced between the two men in confusion. What had just happened?

Keanu spun on his heel and exited the room as quickly as he had entered, but without any of the bluster. Ryan glanced at Ben. He was all smiles and sunshine. Probably because he’d just gotten his own way.

“Let’s continue with the tour,” he said, taking Ryan’s hand in his.

to be continued

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #10 (4.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

In Pieces continues as Ben takes Ryan on a tour of the elegant home where the band will be staying when they're not on the road. It seems as though their host has unusual tastes. See what's up in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #10 (4.2)

Swallowing a sigh, Ryan followed Ben up the wide front steps and into the house. Questions would obviously have to wait for now.

“Starting the tour of Le Grand Mansion, here we have the foyer,” Ben said in a faux tour guide voice as he gestured widely. “What you and I might call the hallway.” He winked at Ryan, drawing him in as if they shared a private joke. Ryan understood what he was saying—neither one of them came from money, this was how the upper class lived. He couldn’t help but think Ben intended to change that with Salvation.

A circular wrought iron staircase wound its way to the second floor. That was something you didn’t see a lot of in St. Louis, more of a New Orleans thing. French architecture and all. He couldn’t help thinking this place looked far too elegant to be someone’s vacation home. He’d pictured something more along the lines of a cozy cabin, all knotty-pine and chinking. This was a far cry from being that.

“And there’s the dining room.” Ben waved toward a room to their left. “It comes complete with its own fireplace. As does the living room, which is right over there. Want to see?” Not waiting for an answer, he gripped Ryan’s hand and tugged him along behind him. Ryan didn’t even think of resisting, but in the back of his mind he couldn’t help but wonder when had Ben developed this dominant streak? Once upon a time, their positions had been reversed. Ryan had led the way and Ben had followed. He’d certainly changed in the ten years since Ryan had last seen him. Had this newfound confidence come with age? Or something else?

The living room proved to be warm and inviting, a warmth that had nothing to do with temperature but with the way it was furnished. A thick russet carpet spread wall-to-wall, just right for bare toes and bare feet… as well as other bare things. Such as stretching out across the floor, naked and cat-like.  Ryan felt his cheeks warm at his unexpected thought—what the hell had brought that one?— but luckily Ben seemed oblivious to his musings so he forced himself to focus on other, safer things.

The stone fireplace sat against the wall to their left as they walked in, flanked on one side by a built-in book case, on the other by a luxurious pecan wood cabinet. The cabinet was crowded with an assortment of figurines and knickknacks. Ryan wondered what they were. Something pricey and pretentious, no doubt. Maybe Hummel, or even something more expensive. He wouldn’t have been surprised to find a Faberge egg or two.

“We call this the naughty room. Cam refers to it as his play room.” Ben laughed at Ryan’s confused expression.  “Come take a look at this. It’s part of Cam’s private collection. He has more upstairs.” They drew closer to the cabinet and Ryan realized he’d been entirely off about these decorations. These pieces had certainly not been made by Hummel or Precious Moments, or even Faberge. No cute kittens or wide-eyed children here.  No, these colorful porcelain figures were pornographic in nature—naked men and women, lithe limbs twisted about one another as they enjoyed themselves with explicit abandon. Nestled among these, Ryan noticed a variety of phallic objects. To his surprise, these turned out to be dildos, in assorted sizes and colors, as well as a number of butt plugs. He suspected that far from being decorative, these items served a more useful purpose, hence the name of the room.

Ryan had no doubt this room had actually seen a great deal of naked romping and rolling on the carpet in its time. And more…

“You’re not shocked, are you?”

Ben’s voice drew him back into the moment, away from the precipice he’d been about to fall over. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it. “Shocked?” he repeated, his voice breaking on the word. He cleared his throat of its momentary frog and continued. “Why would I be shocked?”

“I dunno. Maybe I was thinking you were still kind of innocent or something. My bad.”

Ryan gave Ben a sharp look, holding him in his gaze. For just a second, he thought he caught a glimpse of something in Ben’s eyes, something he couldn’t put his finger on. Something wistful, maybe? Hopeful, even? The next moment, Ben’s expression had changed, as if he’d drawn the shades on some inner emotion he didn’t want Ryan to witness.

That was the writer in him, of course. Real people didn’t think in those terms. Leave it to the mind of an author to conjure up something fanciful at every turn.

“I’m hardly innocent, not at my age,” Ryan protested, even as a small voice argued that he didn’t exactly have a lot of experience either. He told that voice to shut up in no uncertain terms. Okay, he’d been something of a late bloomer as far as sex was concerned, but he was no virgin. He turned his attention to the rest of the room, pushing thoughts of the obscene little figures out of his mind. For now.

“Innocence… experience. Nothing really matters in the end, does it?”

Ben flopped dramatically onto a butterscotch couch with thick cushions which sat in the center of the room.  Closing his eyes, he pressed one hand dramatically to his forehead as if striking a pose. Ryan stared at him in confusion. What the hell?

And then he remembered he’d seen this act before. This was Ben’s avoidance technique, his way of deflecting things he didn’t want to deal with. Play the diva and change the subject. It had been a while, but he’d know this performance anywhere.  Well, it wasn’t going to work, not this time.

“Ben, what’s wro—”

Before he could finish the thought, another voice intruded.

“For Chrissake’s, Ben, when do you plan to rehearse?”

to be continued

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