Farewell from the Bookshelf!

Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!


From GROUND ZERO by Mel Keegan

The open air restaurant was deserted; the umbrellas were folded and tied, the chairs turned over and stacked. The cleaners were already done, and they had the whole balcony to themselves. Two levels up, the helipad was busy with the flotilla of tiny, damselfly helicabs which flitted between downtown’s higher buildings like gnats, without pause. The air had that hot metal and scorching kerosene smell of hard working machines. Two levels down, the cinemas and live theaters were disgorging their crowds after the mid-evening show; live music boomed out of a dance club two levels lower still. Downtown Friday night was just starting to kick into gear.

The city lights were a glittering rainbow as far as they could see, every hue, in every direction. More than two million people lived within the metropolitan limits now; the sky was bright even at night with their light pollution, and rarely quiet, since the airport had become a spaceport in the early ’30s. Transorbital flights, passengers and cargo, staged through Adelaide all day, every day, headed for every point on the globe, and on to the Moon and Mars. Even then a commuter shuttle was on its way out. It might touch down again in Hong Kong or London, or it might be headed up for the transit station, where offworld passengers laid over, waiting for a flight.

Lee gave the view one glance and turned his back on it. He had grown up with it, seen it a thousand times, and he was much more interested in the man who had molded against his side and was nuzzling his neck. The night air was sharply cold, but Brendan was hot – and not merely with the physical warmth of a much larger body that was recently well fed and refueled with a great deal of champagne. Lee felt the rock hardness of him against his own hip, and he knew the sound of Brendan’s bass little growls as he pressed himself there, humping as much as he dared in a place that was semi-public, even if it was deserted.

“We need to go somewhere,” he said, moist heat against Lee’s cheek, shocking by contrast to the chill of the July night.

“We need to get back to that bloody stuffed-shirt convention,” Lee sighed.

“You’re kidding me.” Brendan leaned back and looked at him as if Lee had spontaneously gone insane, and to emphasize his point, he bumped and ground into Lee’s hip. “We need,” he repeated, “to go somewhere.”

“In a hurry,” Lee agreed a little breathlessly. “Ideas?”

The city lights sparkled in Brendan’s eyes. “Car.”

“Car?” Lee demanded, caught between amusement and outrage. “You serious?”

“Nothing wrong with a car,” Brendan argued. “What, you never got done in a car? You don’t know what you’ve been missing.”

“I didn’t say that,” Lee admitted. “But … I was fifteen.”

Brendan hung one big arm over him. “And now you’re thirty. And a hundred bucks says our car’s a hell of a lot better than your dad’s ’25 Toyota.”

The arm around his shoulders was trying to steer Lee to the outside lifts, and he resisted. “Actually, it was my mom’s ’27 Ford. And the only reason you’re suggesting this is, you’ve got three sheets in the wind!”

“Ford, Toyota, big difference, huh?” Brendan devoured his ear and nibbled down the length of his neck. “Car?”

Coherent thought was rapidly deteriorating, but enough brain cells were holding it together for Lee to know the back seat of a Holden Ultima was never going to accommodate a body the size of Brendan, even vaguely horizontal.

“How about,” he suggested while he could still speak at all, “we buy an hour down at Farlight Zone?” Talking was not easy. His gonads seemed to have plans of their own.

“That’s eighty bucks,” Brendan groaned.

“So, you want to head for home?” Lee popped the top off the coffee, found it drinkable by now, and swallowed half of the scalding liquid in one chug.

“That’s forty minutes.” Brendan was wheedling.

“My gramma used to say, ‘You can save time or you can save money, not both,’” Lee intoned.

“Smart lady,” Brendan agreed. “And if I didn’t have three sheets in the freakin’ wind, I wouldn’t even be thinking about paying eighty freakin’ bucks for an hour in a freakin’ VR arcade!”

“But since you do…” Lee breathed coffee steam into his ear.

“Let’s swing by the car. There’s a coupla things we need,” Brendan growled, and gave Lee another push.

This time, he allowed himself to be steered to the lifts. They rode down to the parking levels with an old couple, a very pregnant girl, and three party animals of indeterminate gender whose levels of inebriation made Lee and Brendan look stone-cold sober. The rest of the passengers were headed for street level, but Brendan had punched for ‘P Level 3,’ and they stepped out into aromatic cold, concrete and echoes.

The ’46 Holden Ultima stood on the edge of the top deck of the parking levels. Not far from the lifts and kiosks. It was a decent sized hatchback with a long wheelbase and, admittedly, a big back seat. Still, Lee had never actually considered getting horizontal in it, and while part of him responded to the delicious thrill of the different, another part demanded comfort, if not dignity.

Blue-white neon overheads made even Brendan look leprous, despite his deep olive skin; Lee knew what he must look like himself, with his fair complexion. The blood-scarlet Holden had turned crimson with purple highlights. Brend unlocked it as they approached, and reached in, to the glovebox. Lee knew what he was fetching out, and lounged by the hatch, finishing his coffee and enjoying the opportunity to watch Brendan’s long legs.

Then the car relocked, and they were back in the lift – alone this time, headed back to the mall, and the top VR arcade, the ‘parlor’ with the multi-hookups and party rigs. Farlight Zone was not cheap, but it was the best, and more adults than kids frequented it. Younger patrons were carded before they could get into the adult games, but if one put down a Titanium credit card, access was unrestricted.

Mashed against the wall with Brendan plastered against him, intent on devouring him until the doors opened onto the mall, Lee was only barely coherent. He took a swift glance around as Brend released him – the cc surveillance cameras were sure to have imaged them, but no human eyes would be watching as Brendan humped against him, and Lee’s hands clenched into his buttocks in encouragement Brendan did not need.

They would also be cc imaged at Farlight Zone, but Lee was past caring if some computer knew the humans were getting laid, and if it ticketed them for having sex in a semi-public location, so be it. The fine would be money well spent. The damned AI nannies were everywhere now. You could hardly hope to scratch your nose without being imaged, and in the end the omnipresent surveillance was the same as if there was no surveillance at all: people had come to ignore it. Brendan was oblivious to it – or scornful of it.

The VR arcades were still busy, and would continue to rock into the small hours of Saturday morning. Farlight was a little less congested than the Captain’s Club; it was a lot more select, sophisticated, with fewer family hookups and a lot more party rigs.

The woman working reception looked them over with a faint air of amusement. She was forty, too blonde, too tanned, with purple eye makeup and black lipstick, and a tiger-striped skinsuit that might have been stenciled-on paint.

“Hookup for two?” she guessed.

There was a time Lee might have blushed, but not now. They both looked flushed, tousled, and the champagne had cast a palpable aura around them. Brendan produced his card with a flourish. “You got that one game with the ruined Mayan temple and the werejaguars?”

“Legend of the Black Orchid.” She punched keys. “You’ve played it before?”

“Long time ago,” Brendan admitted. “Leave out the giant spiders and the soldier ants ... leave out the werejaguars and the mad priests.”

She blinked long, mascara-heavy lashes at him. “You leave those out, all you’ve got left is the ruins.”

“And the tropical night, and the jungle birds, and a big full moon, and a million stars, and the hot wind off the mountains,” Brendan said blithely.

She looked him up and down, and then looked at Lee, and snorted. “One Black Orchid scenario, hold the game.”

Lee smothered a chuckle. “You get this often, this time of night, Friday, Saturday?”

“You have no idea, kiddo.” She pushed the ticket over the counter at Brendan. “You’ll get a soft chime at fifteen minutes, a louder one at thirty, a real clanger at forty-five, and a red light starts blipping at five minutes from closeout. You want to continue, it’s a buck a minute. We hold your credit card till you leave. Game control instructions are on the back of the door, and you’ll find a pamphlet on each seat.”

“Thanks.” Brendan saluted her with the ticket and leaned closer to Lee’s ear as they headed for the hookups. “I don’t need any damn’ instructions for the game we’ll be playing.”

Excerpted from GROUND ZERO by Mel Keegan

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