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 MINDSPACE by Mel Keegan

A shadow moved from the corner between the pink marble columns and immense potted ficus. The valet was the perfect androgyne, very human, tall, young, slender, with raven hair and black eyes, and a gender so indeterminate, Jack was fascinated. Even the voice gave away no secret.

“This way, gentlemen. Would you care for supper?”

“We ate already,” Kieron said sadly, “and right now I wish we’d given the noodle bar a miss! But we’ll take breakfast. Can you give me a wake-up call? 06:00 will do just fine.”

The valet dropped a smooth half bow, with perfect manners and enviable grace. “If you need anything at all in the night … room service.”

And then he, or she, melted back into the soft shadows and perfumed air, and the door closed on a suite the like of which Jack had never seen outside the gamespace. He gave a low whistle as he turned around on the spot to admire it.

A king sized bed with a circular mattress. A feature wall displaying the city as if through smoked glass, while the glass displayed all forty channels of CityNet, iconized, only waiting for one to be selected. Kieron touched a fingertip to an icon and the city was gone, replaced by a greater-than lifesize, threedee theatrical performance — was it Macbeth? Jack did not know the ancients well enough to tell one production from another. They were enjoying a surge of popularity lately, since someone had just translated them into modern language and staged them in contemporary settings. He turned his back on the play and investigated the bar instead.

“Off,” Kieron said to the AI as Jack poured two flutes of an old, jewel-rich Velcastran red. The drama vanished; the city reappeared, but Kieron was ignoring it now.

Footsteps padded on the silver-green carpet, and big arms went about Jack from behind. Kieron’s nose sifted through his hair, and lips touched his ear. “Wine?” Jack offered. “Nothing but the best here.”

“No.” Kieron’s tonguetip flicked the ear, outlined it. “I’m flying in the morning. Can’t imbibe. It’s not like gaming.”

“Meaning?” Jack set the glasses down on the bar’s deep cherrywood counter and turned into Kieron’s embrace.

“They tell me,” Kieron said wisely, “gaming is better if you’re stoned or drunk.”

“They tell you wrong.” Jack’s arms hooked around the bigger man’s neck. “You go mindspacing when you’re not in command of your faculties, and it turns into a nightmare. The game plays you, not the other way around. Even if you’re playing the AI it’s bad, but if there’s other gamers online, if you’re up against real talent, there’ll be blood. Literally. You can get yourself raped and murdered, and if that happens, Ron, the game kicks you back six or eight levels, and the next time you play … it’s nastier, darker, harder, to get back to where you were when you were dumb enough to go in drunk or stoned. And before you ask why, it gets that way because you create the gamespace yourself.”

Kieron made a face. “Why in the name of anybody’s god would you want to get involved in this crap? No,” he added with a sigh, “don’t answer that. I don’t want a sermon. Or an argument.”

“No? Then what do you want?” Jack cast a glance over one shoulder, at the bed. “Back at guild school, I had to seduce you.”

“Back at guild school, all I wanted to do was fly, and get through the bloody exams, get qualified and get out,” Kieron snorted.

“And you did,” Jack said with all due pragmatism, “all of the above.” He was about to pull out of Kieron’s embrace when the navigator caught him, hugged him hard, and covered his mouth with a kiss.

It was a long time since Kieron had kissed him at all, much less with passion. Jack clung to it, taking everything he could get from it, before Kieron lifted his head away to breathe.

“What’s this all about?” Jack demanded windedly. “Damnit, you’re not feeling guilty, are you? You are!”

“Guilty?” Kieron flicked his belt buckle, dropped it and pulled the green uniform tunic over his head.

He was built like a Pakrani, even though he did not have the fair complexion or the pale hair. Kieron was as dark as the true Pak were blond; his skin was as swarthy as Max Gorodin’s, telltale of the intricate interweave of the colonial genestrands, which gave so many people in the Deep Sky their unmistakable looks. Earthers liked to say most people out here looked Afro-Eurasian, but the categorization was too broad to say much. Jack, Kieron and Max were absolutely unalike and all Deep Sky natives, bred and born.

Kieron had lost a few kilos lately, Jack noticed. He was leaner, harder, as if he had been running, lifting weights. “Now, how stupid is this?” he was saying in a growl. “What in any world do I have to be guilty about?”

“Me,” Jack said mildly, simply making the simple observation. “After guild school you made it all work. I didn’t. You bounced right out of school into work. Me? I was months in dock, so bored out of my gourd, I started gaming to kill time, waiting for a ride that seemed like it was never going to come. And it turned out I was damned good in the game. I could have turned pro, gotten stinking rich … I probably would have, if the whole thing didn’t turn illegal just about the time I was good enough, ranked high enough, to play professionally.” He shrugged. “Then, where was my luck? I just had to get busted, didn’t I? I had to have my guild ticket nixed.”

“Jack, don’t,” Kieron began.

“And then I drifted around, going from one nothing job to another, getting way too friendly with Freespacers, even the good ones, like Ruby Wu, till …” Jack’s shoulders lifted in an expressive shrug. “Here we are. I’m flat broke and lucky to have the price of a bowl of noodles, and you’re in the choice spot, jockeying something like the Pleiades.” He nodded soberly. “I’d say that’s enough to give you the guilts … because you always did like to look out for me, like Grodin said. Or try to. And you probably figure you blew it, let me land right in a steaming pile.”

An enormous sigh said many things Kieron Charig was not about to put into words. If Jack had expected him to deny any of it, say it was completely ridiculous and Max Gorodin was dead wrong, he was surprised. Kieron said nothing at all.

Instead, he tumbled Jack onto the bed and stretched out beside him. Big, warm hands were everywhere at once, as if he must remap, rechart space he had more than half forgotten. Jack was stripped bare, petted, stroked, kissed. He let Kieron do it all, let himself be moved and turned as Kieron wanted, until his senses blurred into one great pool of surprised pleasure.

His eyes had closed when Kieron’s weight settled on him, blanketing him with heat and the musk-sharp envelope of old cologne and clean young male. Jack’s arms went around him; his hands knotted into the spill of Kieron’s dark hair, holding him to a kiss.

“Jack.” Kieron’s breath was short. Hard flesh stabbed into Jack’s hip and belly. “Jack — can I? You know what I want?”

Nothing ever changed. Real life was not much like the game, where lovers like Danno went down willingly under Jack, gave themselves, in every way Jack’s mind could fathom, and every way the rampaging imaginations of a thousand other master gamers could design. Reality was predictable. Jack only smiled and, as Kieron lifted off him, he turned over and pillowed his cheek on the comforter, silk-soft and smooth.
95,000 words $9.95 in ebook out now from DreamCraft

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