Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: A GZ and Jeff Halloween: Part I

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.

Also, Happy Halloween!  In honor of the occasion, I have momentarily set aside my usual flash and I've written a Halloween story. I'm posting part one today, and I'll finish it tomorrow. Hope you enjoy it! This is especially for those people who, like me, enjoy watching the Food Network! See what my favorite chefs are up to! It might surprise you! Then see what the other Briefers have been doing. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

A GZ and Jeff Halloween: Part I

Although he’d been skeptical of the idea at first, Geoffrey Zakarian—GZ to his friends and colleagues—had to admit that Jeff Mauro had been right about which costumes they should wear to the Food Network Halloween bash. They’d brought smiles to many faces as they’d made the rounds of their fellow chefs, adoring fans, and network executives.

Of course, no one realized that the Turkish Angora cat Jeff carried was actually the Iron Chef himself.  Although Jeff referred to the cat as GZ, everyone assumed he was making a joke in the absence of the chef. The fact that GZ was a cat shifter was a secret he’d only shared with Jeff, who’d become his best friend after they’d started working together on The Kitchen, back in 2014. Not even GZ’s wife or his children knew that the aristocratic white cat who deigned to grace them with his presence on occasion was their very own Geoffrey/Daddy.

“I like your costume, Mr. Mauro!”  Chef Alton Brown complimented the Sandwich King. “But I’m not sure who you’re supposed to be. Care to enlighten me?”

“Dr. Evil, of course,” Jeff replied. He  placed his little finger  at the corner of his mouth, striking an appropriate pose, then moved his hand down to stroke the white cat in his arms, sinking his fingers into the luxurious fur, as if to make his point. The two chefs stood next to one another in the buffet line, waiting their turn to pick from long tables laden with an assortment of epicurean delights .  Of course the whole night had been dedicated to eating and drinking—that’s what they did. Only the best for these well-trained palates.

“Ah,” Alton said. “I thought maybe you were supposed to be Dr. No. He came first, you know.” He reached over and chucked the cat under the chin, who purred compliantly. GZ was used to being petted. His children loved to pet the white cat they’d nicknamed Prince. And Jeff was prone to do so himself. Sometimes it was nice to curl up in Jeff’s lap, in front of a roaring fire burning in one of his seven fireplaces, and nap, something he had little time for as a chef. The life of an Iron Chef/restaurateur was not easy, and he took his luxuries where he could.

“Yes, I know,” Jeff said, grinning widely. “James Bond is cool and all, but Austin Powers… he’s totally hilarious. You gotta love comedy, right?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

The cat lazily raised its head and fixed wide eyes on Alton. GZ wondered how he could say that with a straight face when everyone knew that Alton’s show, Good Eats, contained equal parts information and humor. As did Alton’s stint as moderator on Iron Chef America. The man certainly had a poker face.

Jeff just laughed. When they reached the head of the line, he made sure to acquire the finest of tidbits for his feline companion, including but not limited to Beluga caviar and smoked salmon. Jeff eyed all the delectable comestibles. “Looks like I’ll need both hands,” he commented. GZ knew the drill. He climbed up Jeff and settled around his neck so Jeff could fill two plates.

There was no central location for eating. Guests were free to sit where they could find space. As Jeff looked around for an open spot, GZ heard a familiar voice.

“There’s room over here, Jeff. Why don’t you come and sit by me?”

GZ would have known that voice anywhere. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli was one of his best friends, as well as his fellow judge on Chopped, and at one time she’d once been his sous chef on Iron Chef America. When people asked if they were husband and wife, she liked to joke that she and GZ had been married for all of ten minutes. She was strong and tough and she was an amazing chef. GZ had a great admiration for her, in and out of the kitchen.

“Well, since you asked so nicely, I think I will.” Jeff plopped down into the wing chair beside Alex, setting one plate on the small table between them so he could get settled. GZ clung tightly to Jeff’s neck, lest he fall, momentarily forgetting his claws.

“Ouch!” Jeff reached up and pulled the cat from his perch, settling him on one leg instead, one plate balanced on his other thigh. “Naughty boy, watch out for those things, willya?”

GZ meowed contritely.

“Let me guess, you’re Dr. Evil, right?” Alex said. “And that’s Mr. Bigglesworth? I thought he was bald?”

“The second one was, yeah,” Jeff said. “But this isn’t him, this is GZ. He’s just playing Mr. Bigglesworth tonight.”

Alex laughed. “Why am I not surprised you named the cat after Geoffrey Zakarian? Does he find that as amusing as I do?”

“Even more so, I think.” Jeff smiled. “You want to hold him?”

Not waiting for a response, GZ rose and leaped from Jeff’s lap to Alex’s, careful of Alex’s plate.

“Well, I guess he wants me to hold him whether I want to or not. He’s a smart kitty, isn’t he?”

“You have no idea,” Jeff said enigmatically.

Alex began to stroke along GZ’s back. He relaxed at her touch, purring luxuriantly. “You are a soft fellow, aren’t you? I think GZ has a cat like you. His kids told me about him. They really love him, but he’s wild and he only shows up when he feels like it. You gotta admire someone like that, you know?”

GZ purred again, the only response he could make under the circumstances.

“Let me guess, that plate’s his?” Alex motioned toward the food on the table.

“How could you tell? It’s the kitty seafood special. He loves the stuff. Especially the caviar. Feel free to feed him, if you like.”

“He’s got the same rich taste as his owner.” Alex snorted.

to be continued

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Review: Blue Exorcist, Volume 3 by Kazue Kato

Blue Exorcist, Book 3       

Author: Kazue Kato
Publisher: Viz Media
American release date: August 2, 2011
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/200 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Rin is decidedly unhappy with the amount of work that’s required in the exorcist cram school, being inclined toward laziness. Yukio despairs of his brother being able to succeed, and tells Rin he relies on the flame of Satan too much. When Yukio is called to take care of some business, Rin insists on accompanying him… uninvited. It seems that Father Fujimoto’s familiar, Kuro, has become unmanageable since the priest’s death and needs to be taken care of. When Yukio agrees to take care of the cat, Rin protests and steps in to save the angry feline.

The exwires are sent on an assignment to Mephhyland, the academy’s amusement park, and Yukio pairs them up. Rin ends up with Shiemi, which isn’t exactly displeasing to him. She’s wearing a uniform today, one that brings certain features into prominence, drawing the attention of the guys in her class. Drawn by the sound of crying, Shiemi and Rin find a little boy ghost, who turns out to be more than they bargained for. To his dismay, Rin has his sword snatched by Amaimon, who reveals himself as Rin’s brother and works at forcing Rin to fight with him. And another mysterious figure emerges and is revealed.

Summer break means Forest Camp for the exwires, and on their first night of camp, they are given an assignment which only three of them can possibly complete. Who, if anyone, will emerge victorious?
Kazue Kato is beginning to fill in the blanks, and we get more of a glimpse into Rin’s extended family as well as life with Father Fujimoto. I love watching him with Shiemi, and I suspect she has feelings for him. As for Rin, he’s pretty clueless but I think he likes her too, whether he’s willing to admit it or not. The story is moving apace and is keeping my interest. I look forward to see how it develops, and watching the exwires become a cohesive team as they form stronger bonds among themselves. I have to wonder how long will it be before they learn who Rin really is, and will that make any difference in how they treat him?

Good volume, look forward to reading more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #25 (7.5)

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 can't seem to catch a break. Every time he thinks he's getting some alone time with Ben, up pops someone else. Especially Cameron! What's going on? Find out more in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #25 (7.5)

“This is breakfast,” Ben replied.

“To each his own,” Cameron said cheerfully. “I was going to make an omelet. Care to join me in the kitchen, Ryan?”

Ryan wondered why the invitation was for him alone, obviously excluding Ben. He was thoroughly confused about what sort of relationship they had. Sometimes he thought Ben disliked Cameron in some way. Maybe he was jealous of him? And yet at other times, they seemed thick as thieves. And he’d certainly come running when Cameron had beckoned in the middle of the night. Surely Cameron wasn’t hitting on him?

“Um, no thanks. We’re good here,” Ryan answered for both of them. When Ben squeezed his hand, Ryan knew he’d given the right response.

“Maybe tomorrow,” Cameron said. “Say, I just had an idea. While you guys are busy rehearsing for tomorrow night, why don’t I take Ryan with me and get him something to wear for the party?”

“That’s a generous offer, but we won’t be rehearsing until later. I thought I’d take Ryan on a little scenic tour, since we’ll have the time. Show him a little of New Orleans, since this is his first time here.”

“Well dang, how am I supposed to make time with this handsome guy if you insist on taking him away?” Cameron laughed.

Ben rose from the table, and Ryan quickly followed suit, since they were still holding hands. 

“Actually I think we’ll get something out. I’ve lost my appetite for fruit right now.”

He pushed past Cameron, Ryan in tow, but when they’d reached the doorway, Ben turned, sliding one arm about Ryan’s waist. “It’s hard to take you seriously, Cam, when I know your taste runs to women. But even if it didn’t, he’s mine. C’mon, Ryan, let’s go.” Turning, they headed toward the front of the house. Ryan thought he heard Cameron chuckle behind them, but he couldn’t be sure. On a table near the front door, Ben scooped up a set of car keys that lay there. “Thanks for letting me use the car,” he called over his shoulder.

“I think he was just joking, Ben,” Ryan said once they’d settled into the luxury sedan. He’d half expected Cameron to follow them out, maybe take back the keys to his car, but there was no sign of him. “He’s not interested in me.”

“I’m not taking any chances.” Ben pressed his lips together firmly as he rounded the curved driveway and pulled out onto the road. “I don’t like the way he acts around Abby, and I won’t let him harass you too.”

“Abby?” Ryan was confused. “What do you mean harass? Did he make a pass at her? Abby seems more than able to stand up for herself. Plus she’s got Aiden to protect her.”

“And you’ve got me.” Ben relaxed a little behind the wheel, his breathing a little more even. “But sometimes when Cam has too much to drink, he can be a handful. And he forgets his manners. That’s one reason why Abby’s sharing a room with Aiden. So he can keep an eye on her and keep Cameron away.”

“Have you talked to him about it? Has Aiden?”

Ben offered Ryan a wry smile. “It’s kind of hard to ask your biggest backer if he has unsavory intentions toward your drummer, you know? Takes a little tact, which isn’t necessarily something I possess. And Aiden’s as likely to kick his ass as talk to him if he thinks for one moment he’ll touch Abby. Someday we’ll be rich and famous, and we’ll pay Cameron back his investment. And when that day arrives, we’ll wash our hands of him.”

“I believe in you, Ben,” Ryan said sincerely. “I’ve always believed in you. I think Salvation is great, and I think you have an amazing voice.”

Ben blushed at Ryan’s words. He rewarded Ryan with a warm smile, just before he turned off the main road, stopping at the first light, which was red. He leaned over and kissed Ryan. “Thank you,” he said softly. “That means everything to me.”

The light changed and he had to draw back, but Ryan felt that the atmosphere in the car had lightened considerably.

“Where are we going?” Ryan asked.

“Breakfast. I know a little place not too far from here. They have a great breakfast menu.” He reached for Ryan’s hand and placed it on top of his thigh. Ryan found himself very pleased at the intimate gesture, scooting as close as he could to Ben.

A few minutes later, he pulled into a parking lot and turned off the engine. “We’re here,” he announced, waving toward the building in front of them.

The name was painted on the wall in day glo blue: Liz’s Where Y’at Diner.

“C’mon, let’s eat,” Ben said.

to be continued'

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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Book review: Q*pid by Xavier Mayne

Author: Xavier Mayne
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
American release date: August 28, 2018
Format/Genre/Length: E-book/M/M Contemporary Romance/310 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Archer is the AI at the dating service Q*pid, and he has his own ideas about how matches can be made. Veera, his programmer, is frustrated that he isn’t listening to her and insists on going his own way. She’s on thin ice as it is with Archer at work, and not everyone at the dating service is convinced of Archer’s ability to make working matches. But when he proposes changing the protocol that determines which gender the clients are looking for, making them open to more possibilities, they are determined he and Veera have lost their collective minds. Due to a misunderstanding, Archer proceeds with his plan, and the results…

Drew Larsen is working on his PhD, and his dating life is fraught with strong and strange women. It’s not surprising that none of his relationships last. He finds more pleasure in the company of his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Schwartzmann, who has more tall tales than Carter has little liver pills.  Fox Kincade is a very successful man in all ways but one—finding the right woman. But never fear, he has a spread chart for everything, and since joining the dating service Q*pid, he is determined to find Ms. Right, as long as he follows his own rules of dating. He feels pressured, though, because he is the last of his group to find their partner. His standards are high. He is determined only to date women who match him at least with an 80% rating or higher.

When Fox and Drew are each notified  of a match exceeding 99%, they are overjoyed! But that joy soon turns to confusion and dismay when they open the match to find themselves looking into another man’s face! The dating service, once it discovers what Archer has done, quickly rescinds the matches, but too late for Fox and Drew, who have to decide to do with this information.
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith…

Q*pid is a well-written, romantic story about love and possibilities, based on the understanding that love is not limited to nor restricted by body parts. By what matches where or what goes where. Love is soul-deep. You just have to be open to it.

Xavier Mayne writes well, and he draws his characters as people we can easily like and believe in. The secondary characters—Drew’s neighbor, Mrs. Schwartzmann, and Fox’s bff Chad and his wife—are delightful people you would really like to spend time with. From the beginning, I knew the outcome was predetermined—it is a romance, after all—but the journey to happiness is well worth taking, and the ending is satisfying on many levels. Don’t forget to bring plenty of Kleenex.

All in all, this was a good read, one I would recommend if you like two men finding each other when they think they want Ms. Right. And it also goes to prove you don’t have to have all the same interests to be attracted to someone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #24 (7.4)

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 has barely begun his job, and is already being told what he can't do. What secrets lie behind Aiden's words? Will he run into other roadblocks? And when will he get the chance to tell Ben how he feels? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to. Their links follow my tale!  Enjoy!

In Pieces #24 (7.4)

“Now I think I’m ready to face the day,” Ben said with a smile. “Has Aiden been cooperative?” His fingers lightly stroked along Ryan’s arm, but his glance was for Aiden.

“What? Oh yes, very much so,” Ryan quickly said. “He was just telling me how you met, and the other bands you’ve been in together.”

“Hey Ben, what was the name of that first band we were in?” Aiden asked. “You know, back in Frisco? I told Ryan it was something like Bad Vibrations, but I couldn’t remember for sure.”

“Not exactly.” Ben gave a little snort. “Harmonic Hazard. Should have been toxic hazard. Rowan was pure poison.”

“Yeah, he sure thought the sun rose and set on him, didn’t he? I wonder where he is now?”

“Probably serving five to ten somewhere,” Ben said lightly. His glance shifted back to Ryan. “Did you eat yet? I was going to get some breakfast, but I wanted to make sure you ate. Did you?”

Was that Ben’s way of changing the subject before it got to Prime Wisdom, and his mother?  “Um, no, not yet,” Ryan admitted.

“I distracted him with a cup of coffee.” Ryan laughed. “And then we got to talking. Book stuff, you know. Trying to be helpful, like you told us to be.”

“Glad to hear it.” He glanced into Ryan’s cup. “Looks like you could use a refill. C’mon, let’s see what there is to eat.”

There was more Ryan wanted to know about the break-up of Prime Wisdom, and what Liza had to do with it, but he decided to wait. He wanted to know what he was dealing with before he broached the subject in front of Ben. He needed to gauge how potentially painful it might be, just in case.

“Sounds like a plan,” he agreed, following Ben inside. Just before he stepped through the doorway, Ryan turned on impulse to find Aiden watching them with a knowing look. Flushing, he forgot what he’d been about to say, and hurried after Ben, closing the door behind him.

The refrigerator was recessed into the wall. The pecan wood-paneled front was a direct match to the walls. Ice and water were available to be dispensed through the door. Ben was already rummaging inside. He emerged holding several pieces of fruit.  “Can you grab the coffee and I’ll take this to the table?” he asked Ryan.

“Yeah, sure. How do you take yours?”

“Black,” Ben replied.

Ryan watched Ben  as he sashayed in the direction of the breakfast nook, his hips swaying enticingly. For a moment, Ryan forgot what he was supposed to be doing. Oh yeah, coffee. He wrenched his gaze away from Ben’s ass, grabbed a second cup from the mug tree and filled it, then poured more for himself. He’d thought Ben took sugar and cream in his coffee, but obviously he was mistaken. He carried both cups carefully to the table and set one in front of Ben then took a seat beside him. Ben took a long appreciative sip of the hot brew, a pensive look in his expressive blue eyes.

“You okay, Ben?”

Ben didn’t answer immediately. His brows furrowed, as if in thought. Then he set down the mug and raised his eyes to meet Ryan’s. “What did Aiden have to say about… my mother?” he said at last.

So he had overheard that part of the conversation.

Ryan set his own coffee on the table and scooted closer to Ben. He laid his hand over Ben’s, warm from the steaming brew. “He said she was responsible for the break-up of your group, Primary Wisdom. That’s all.”

He felt Ben flinch at his words, felt him start to draw back. Without hesitation, he wrapped his arm about Ben’s shoulders and pulled him close, kissed the top of his head. “Don’t worry,” he said softly. “I won’t ever let her separate us again. I promise you.”

Ben shuddered beneath his touch, then relaxed with a long sigh, nestling against Ryan. “I don’t want to lose you again, Ryan. Please… promise me we’ll stay together.”

“Always,” Ryan vowed in a fervent voice. “Forever, Ben. You and me.”

Ben turned in his embrace, and Ryan wrapped his other arm about him, cocooning him in his warmth. He began to rub gentle circles on Ben’s back, breathing in Ben’s scent.  “Ben, I lo—”

“Morning, y’all. Looks like it’s going to be a glorious day.” At the sound of Cameron’s voice, Ben stiffened, then drew back, out of Ryan’s embrace.

“It is going to be a glorious day,” Ben replied, his voice sounding a lot more confident than before. 

Ryan hoped he’d helped him with whatever doubts and fears had momentarily assailed him. Why did Cameron have such shitty timing, though? The words he’d wanted to say would have to remain unspoken for now. But he would say them soon, and that was a promise.

to be continued

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #23 (7.3)

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.

In last week's chapter of In Pieces, Ryan was given some boundaries by Aiden in regards to his twin, Abby. Will this make Ryan's job harder? What is going on with these people? Find out more in this week's chapter. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #23 (7.3)

“Yeah, sure,” Ryan stammered, even as he was wondering how he would get background information if he couldn’t ask questions about the band members’ backgrounds. Guess he couldn’t. At least, not all of them. Maybe some of them wouldn’t mind.

He made a mental note to discuss the situation with Ben later. For right now, he’d just leave the topic alone.

Don’t ask about transgender or family. Duly noted.

“So you and Ben are stepbrothers?” Aiden asked. At least the potential storm had passed, to Ryan’s relief,  leaving no trace, almost as if it had never been, and Aiden was his usual sunny self once more. Ryan was glad. He wasn’t one to court drama.

“Uh, yeah. My dad and his mom.”  He tried not to squirm. Why did that question make him so uncomfortable? Maybe because he didn’t want people to think of him and Ben as brothers, and even saying stepbrothers was a little too close for comfort. To consider them as being siblings would make his feelings for Ben inappropriate, to say the least. The truth of the matter was their parents had been married once upon a time for a few years. Okay, it had been a decade. But there was no shared blood between them, that’s what counted. The bond Ben and he had was something entirely different. Something special.

“I take it you haven’t exactly kept in touch with him,” Aiden continued. “I mean, you seemed so shocked to see him up at the airport. In fact, you were so surprised you fainted.”

Ryan’s cheeks heated at the memory. “I haven’t seen Ben in ten years,” he said, more than a little defensively. “This was the last place I expected him to be, much less involved with Salvation.” Who was asking the questions here? And why did he feel the need to explain himself  anyway?

“Well, it certainly is a small world, isn’t it?” Aiden took a sip of his coffee, watching Ryan over the rim of his mug.

Ryan ducked behind his laptop screen. He knew he shouldn’t allow himself to get so riled over a simple question. Aiden hadn’t meant anything by it, Ryan was just reading into what he’d said. He needed to stop being so sensitive where Ben was concerned. Especially now that they were together again. He didn’t want to do anything to fuck that up. Not before he had a chance to make things right, the way they should always have been.

“How long have you known Ben?”  Ryan redirected the conversation to where it should always have been. That had to be a much safer topic. Nothing taboo there, right?

“A couple of years, I guess. We met when we played together in a band in San Francisco.”

Ryan set his coffee aside and began to type.  “What was the name of the band?”

Aiden shrugged. “Ill Harmony.  Bad Vibrations.  I forget. It wasn’t much of a band, to be honest, and the music pretty much sucked. We were all glad when the lead singer decided to call it quits. I think he went into the porno industry.”

“Ben didn’t sing lead?” Ryan was surprised.

“No, but he should have. He was a lot better than that other guy. Maybe that was the problem. He was too good. He became a threat the other guy couldn’t deal with so he broke up the band. Then the three of us just moved on.”

“Is that when you formed Salvation?” Now they were getting somewhere. This was the type of information that fans would find interesting.

“Not right away.”

Ryan glanced up, fingers poised.  “Was there another group? Before Salvation?”

“Briefly. It was called Primary Wisdom, but it was short-lived.”

“Not good either?” Ryan was becoming curious. Was it normal to go from band to band like this? He didn’t really know.

“No, Wisdom was pretty good actually. Especially once we got Keanu and Deacon. We had a good sound going on.”

“Was it the same genre, church metal? And by the way, how would you define church metal? I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t know.”

Aiden shrugged. “I can’t really define it. It’s just something you have to feel.  Like religion. But no, Wisdom was more rock and roll than metal.”

That was about as clear as mud. Not very helpful at all.

“So what happened to the group?”

Aiden didn’t reply right away. Several seconds passed before he finally said, “Internal strife, I guess you could say. Ben doesn’t like to be told what to do. Things got really tense, so we split. Headed in a new direction.”

“Who was trying to tell Ben what to do?”

“Ben’s mother.”

Ryan was shocked. Not once since being reunited with Ben had thoughts of Liza crossed his mind. He hadn’t even thought to ask Ben about her, how she was doing, was she still alive. Ben certainly hadn’t introduced the subject himself. Out of sight, out of mind.

A chill crawled down Ryan’s spine at the mere mention of her name. He’d never liked her, and he hated her what she’d done to his dad. And to him, when she took Ben away, keeping them apart for ten long years. Could that have been a deliberate ploy on her part? And why had that idea never occurred to him before? Maybe because he’d been too busy missing Ben to worry about her or her motives.

Lost in thought, Ryan was startled by a hand on his arm.  What the hell was Aiden thinking? But when he glanced up, he found Ben standing there, hair freshly damp from the shower, cheeks glowing. Ryan’s heart skipped a beat at the sight.

But what had he heard? And how would he react to the mention of his controlling mother?

to be continued

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #22 (7.2)

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.

Ryan tries to stay awake until Ben's return, but that doesn't happen. When he wakes, he's afraid to discover that Ben is gone. But that didn't happen. Of course, neither did anything else. See what's happening in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #22 (7.2)

The temptation to join Ben in the shower was strong, but Ryan managed to resist the impulse. The sooner he dressed and headed downstairs, though, the better. The longer he lingered here, thinking about a naked Ben, the stronger the urge would become to throw open the door and let nature take its course and he might not be able to fight it. To distract himself, he set his suitcase on the bed and opened it. Get dressed and get out.

Casual would be the order of the day, he decided. At least until the band went on tour. He wasn’t sure how he was expected to dress for performances. He could ask Ben about that later. He selected a pair of comfortable gray slacks and a short-sleeved white shirt, unpacked the rest of his clothes into the dresser Ben had indicated for his use.  The toiletries could wait until later. He tied his sneakers, picked up his laptop, and quickly exited the bedroom.

He was beginning to get used to the layout of the house already and managed to find the kitchen without any problems. The only person in sight was Aiden, who stood by the counter, pouring himself a cup of coffee. Glancing up as Ryan entered the room, he flashed him a friendly smile.

“Want a cup?” Aiden offered.

“I’d love one.” Ryan returned the smile. “No one else up yet?”

Aiden took another mug from a tree next to the coffeepot and poured. “Not that I’ve seen. Cameron went out early. I heard him leave a while ago. Abby’s sleeping in a little. She had a bad night. Oh, you already know that, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I remember. How’s she doing?” Ryan asked.  “Whatever she saw last night really spooked her, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, it did.”

Ryan noticed that Aiden didn’t meet his eyes when he said that, but what was there to lie about? Unless, of course, he knew more about what had happened than he was letting on. Abby hadn’t struck him as the nervous type, not someone who would get easily frightened by ghost stories, but you never knew. Now her brother’s behavior spoke volumes, like maybe Ryan was on to something. But what?

Ryan decided not to pursue the subject. He wanted to make friends, not enemies. Aiden had no reason to trust him yet, or even like him. Besides, whatever the real reason it wasn’t likely to be something either twin would want to see in print, so not food for Ryan’s fodder. A change of subject was definitely in order, but Aiden beat him to the punch.

“Do you take cream or sugar?”

“Black’s just fine with me.”

“Black it is, then. Want to go out on the veranda? It’s a beautiful day.” Aiden swept his hand in a wide gesture. The outdoors did indeed beckon.

“I like that idea,” Ryan said. “Mind if we talk while we drink? I thought I’d gather some background material for the book, talk to the members of the band individually.”

“Sure,” Aiden replied.  “That sounds like a plan. Let’s get to it.” He opened the door for Ryan, who was fumbling both his coffee and the laptop.

“Thanks, man,” he said as he walked past Aiden, onto the veranda.

They took a seat at one of the tables. The wooden deck chairs were comfortably cushioned in shades of blue and green. Not a cloud married the beauty of the cerulean sky, and the matching umbrella in the middle of the table provided more than adequate shade from the direct rays of the sun.

Ryan opened his laptop, then brought up Word. He’d already made folders for each member of the band, to keep things organized. He was just getting background material for now. He still needed to discuss more about the book with Ben, in terms of what he really wanted out of this book, so he could get a better handle on what he was doing. Information gathering was good for now, but that only went so far.

He’d put Aiden and Abby into the same folder. He would make separate files, of course.

“Before we start, there’s something I’d like to get out of the way,” Aiden said. He held his cup of coffee in mid-air, his eyes locked on Ryan. The ready smile had disappeared, and Ryan knew something serious was coming his way. He braced himself for whatever Aiden had to say.

“You can ask Abby all the questions you like about being in the band, her music. Any of that stuff. But don’t question her about California, or becoming transgender, or anything about our family. All of that is off the table. Capisce?”

Ryan glanced up from his laptop in surprise. The normally amiable Aiden had just become a fierce defender of his sister. What was in their past that needed protecting, he wondered.

to be continued

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