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!
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Petit Morts #7
Length: Novelette - 17,240 words
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price
When Michael Milner opens a dojo down the street from Ethan's bookstore, Red Bird Books, he makes ripples not only because he's a newcomer in the small desert town of Peabody, but because half his face has been horribly scarred. How? Ethan isn't sure. Michael's not exactly the chatty type, which only adds to his allure.
Michael may not be the most sociable person in Peabody, but he's quick to defuse a tense situation when Ethan finds himself cornered by Karl Hagar, fellow writing group member, and creepy author of even creepier serial killer tales. Ethan's sister Erin is convinced that Karl himself is responsible for the bodies turning up lately in the desert—after all, don't all the advice books say, "Write what you know?"
While Erin's idea seems pretty far-fetched, Ethan does have to wonder why Karl's eerie focus has landed squarely on him.
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His name was Michael.
Not Mike. Not Mikey. Certainly not Micky.
Like the archangel.
Michael Milner of Milner’s Martial Arts. Two doors down from Red Bird Books and Coffee in the self-consciously rustic Viento Square mini mall. He’d been in business six weeks, which was a long time given the economy -- and a town the size of Peabody. That was two weeks longer than Paper Crane Stationery had lasted. He wasn’t packing them in like the candy shop, but he seemed to be doing all right. He had students. Mostly skinny boys and girls needing to be kept busy during their summer vacation.
Michael looked like an archangel too. He was built like a runner or a knight of old. Tall, lean, wide shoulders and ropy muscles. His hair was nearly shoulder length -- when he didn’t have it tied back -- and of the palest gold. Not that Ethan -- who owned the book store half of Red Bird Books and Coffee and hoped to be a published author one day -- would have normally used that kind of hyperbole to describe Michael, but blond just didn’t seem to cover that particular shade which somehow brought to mind the gleaming tips of arrows or reverberating harp strings. Michael’s eyes were blue, the blue of a cloudless sky or the color you believe water is when you’re a little kid. His face was beautiful. Really beautiful. Elegant, almost exotic, bone structure -- at least on the one side of his face.
The right half of his face had been destroyed at some point. Smashed and burned, it looked like, though Ethan was no expert -- and he tried very hard not to stare. They -- whoever they were -- had tried to rebuild Michael and they’d saved his eye, but the skin looked like it had been stretched too tight over reconstructed bones. It had a stiff, shiny, inflexible quality. Since Michael was mostly expressionless, it wasn’t as noticeable as it might have been if he’d been the smiley, chatty kind.
Ethan figured he’d had about thirty words out of Michael in the weeks since he’d opened the dojo. Actually it was more like one word thirty times -- Thanks when Ethan handed him his change.
It was Chance from next door’s Sweets to the Sweet who had told Ethan that Michael had been Special Ops in Afghanistan.
“How’d you find that out?” Ethan asked through a mouthful of divinity fudge. Chance was generous with his samples. Maybe that was why Sweets to the Sweet had been a hit practically from the moment the doors opened.
Chance raised a negligent shoulder. He reminded Ethan of a cat. Sleek and graceful and inscrutable. Chance and his boutique chocolates seemed even more out of place in Peabody than Michael Milner’s kajukenbo lessons.
“Do you know what happened to his…?” Ethan put a hand to his own right cheek bone rather than complete the sentence. It was probably in bad taste to ask such a question but it’s wasn’t possible to pretend he hadn’t noticed. He found Michael fascinating. He wanted to know everything about him. He told himself it was his writer’s imagination wanting fuel for the fire.
“Why don’t you ask him?” Chance had returned too innocently.
Ethan had retreated instantly from the suggestion. Of course he would never ask -- who the hell would ask that kind of question? Even if his previous attempts to be friendly to Michael hadn’t fallen flat. Michael was unfailingly polite and unfailingly distant. On the rare occasion that he bothered to make eye contact with Ethan, he seemed to see something slightly off center that made him narrow his gaze.
Ethan swallowed the last heavenly bit of white fudge. How was it that everything in Sweets to the Sweet was so delicious? He half suspected Chance of adding addictive substances. It wouldn’t surprise him. He made Ethan a little uncomfortable sometimes -- like now when he was studying Ethan as though he could see right into the secret corners of his mind. The places Ethan himself was afraid to explore too closely.
“I should get back.” Ethan rubbed his fingers, trying to remove the lingering sugary sweetness. He headed for the door.
Ethan glanced back.
Chance smiled that sly smile of his. “He’s not married.”
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