Yeah, I have to take one. A, because I need a “reset” before switching heads back to Dex and his arrival in Nashville. But B, I need to be Adam Vance for a few weeks and get something rolling that could bring in some serious bank. I am having a pretty damn good month, financially, thanks to my borrow rate, I have to admit. Even if Lord Bezos keeps us at $1.33 a borrow, which is the most I dare to hope for. (I think Amazon will just keep lowering the rate until it finds the basement level at which writers will finally rebel and quit the program.) But since I’m facing a big punch in the finances on 1/1 in the health care department, I need to experiment with something that could cover that the way that gayrom can’t.
And C, I need a change of mental scenery. I think I’ll come back to Rocky and Dex tanned, rested and ready for some more intense feels, after a nice, purely cerebral project.
I’ll still be posting 🙂 My traffic has gone up since the last BookBub and it would be career suicide to just stop posting now. But there won’t be any more excerpts for a while. On the bright side, this book is at 55k and counting – 70k was the longest of any of my other books, so for those wanting a bigger read, well, this’ll do the job, I think.
As much as he wanted to, Rocky didn’t take to his bed this time. There just wasn’t time to stop and cry, hardly even time to think. The band was going supernova. Nothing was happening at the glacial pace he’d expected, that Barrett Springfield had taught him was the way the business moved, the long delay before an album’s release, the PR and ad campaign that had to precede it, none of that. It was all just moving so fast, bang bang bang.
They had to go to New York, to be guests on one of the late late shows. They all missed class for that. Then they had to stay in New York a few extra days, to meet with potential producers for the album they’d only just realized they had to hurry up and write.
Rocky told them about Nico, told them all of it, knowing there was no need to swear them to secrecy. They knew he was sad, and he wanted them to know why. They were his friends, and the song they’d written wasn’t just some bullshit. His faith in his friends was strong.
And work kept his restless mind busy, kept his intellect flying far above his emotions, kept him from landing on the carcass of…whatever he’d had with Nico, and pecking at it over and over.
But you can only work so many hours until finally you have to go to bed. And in those few moments before exhaustion took him, the fucking feelings he’d been avoiding clawed their way past all the cerebral barriers he’d built, and the pecking began.
It hadn’t been love. But it was the closest Rocky had ever gotten. It had been…a connection, however perverse. A man’s touch. Nico had been, in his own casual come-and-go way, well, kind to him. His introduction to sex couldn’t have come in a better pair of hands, literally and figuratively.
He’d made a mistake, he could see now. No matter how he’d played along with Nico about being “fuck buddies,” he had fallen in love. And while from Nico’s point of view, it had just been…
Well, he couldn’t know, what Nico felt. But he did, a little. The look on Nico’s face when he walked away from Rocky for the last time, yeah, there was regret there. But something else, too, a…coldness. An iron will. A triage, that set aside whatever they’d had, to concentrate on the critical issue.
Of course there was an iron will there. Rocky knew that from their time in bed. And he knew that a starting quarterback on a big SEC team didn’t get to that position without it. And Nico had done what he had to do to keep that position.
Which meant, above all, removing any chance that he could be discovered having gay sex. It had been a thrill, risking getting caught, until he’d been caught at something else. Then he had just…deleted his risk profile.
No more straight men, Rocky resolved. No more guys who were going to walk away at the first sign of trouble, the potential revelation of their queer side.
But Rocky wasn’t meeting any gay guys in Korey’s circles who did to him what Nico did, who made his guts churn inside. They were all so…crisp, and pressed, and polished. Even the ones with sleeve tattoos and ripped jeans had…designed their look so carefully. Every hair was in place (or removed, as appropriate), every outfit carefully coordinated after long consideration and research.
He saw so many pictures of “hot” guys, shirtless, with great bodies and decent-enough features, but in most of those faces, there was just no heat there. They stood and posed and to Rocky, they were like empty vessels. So lacking in that extra something that they just sucked the air out of the scene.
They bored him. He longed for Nico’s effortless appeal, for a man who was just…who had an appeal all his own, who didn’t need to shellac himself inside the latest look to attain what everyone was calling “hot” today. A look that would be “out” tomorrow, cast aside in favor of the next shell. There had to be gay guys like that, there were gay guys like that. He just had to look harder.
The commercial featuring their song hit the airwaves, and immediately people were asking, who does that! Korey was talking about touring already, but they barely had enough material to put on a show – they were filling in their set list with cover versions. Riding this rocket meant working furiously, writing more songs, rehearsing them, trying them out in little clubs…
They’d all reached the same conclusion by spring break. They would have to drop out of school. Or withdraw, anyway. And that meant that Rocky would have to make a phone call.
He’d been in regular contact with his grandmother, telling her how it was going at school (editing out the pot smoking and the cock sucking). Now he had to tell her he was quitting.
He shuddered to think what she’d say. After all the money she’d scrimped and saved for him to get away! And he was just going to let that go.
“I’m so proud of you,” Faith said after he cataloged the band’s successes. “I knew you’d reach your goals, Rocky.”
“Thanks…but, well… It’s all taking so much time, and…”
She cut him off, having already guessed what was coming. “Just do this for me. Finish this semester. It’s paid for, and it’s almost over. At least get a C average!”
He laughed; he could hear her smiling as she said it.
“And then you have a year under your belt. And you can go back later and finish your degree. If you even need it or want it by then.”
Rocky exhaled, amazed that all the pressure built up inside him could be released so easily, so lightly.
“And…” Faith said hesitantly. “You should call your father.”
That ruined it. “What for? So I can tell him about my successful career in ‘devil music’?” Or, he thought, tell him that I’m now an official cocksucker?
She sighed. “He misses you. He’d never say so. But I can tell.”
Rocky didn’t believe it. His father was busy whipping up anti-gay hysteria in Africa, convincing gullible people that the gays were coming to eat their children and steal husbands from their wives.
Something cruel rose up in him and lashed out. “Well, tell him I’m gay. That’ll fix that.”
Faith was silent.
Rocky regretted it instantly. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to shout at you.”
“I forgive you,” she said softly. Rocky didn’t know if she meant for yelling, or for being gay.
They said more civilized goodbyes, and only later did Rocky wonder why she didn’t say anything about the gay part. Did she think he was just saying it to spite his father? Did she always know, anyway? He’d never had a girlfriend, and she’d never hinted that he should get one.
It didn’t matter now. He’d keep his promise, struggle through the rest of the semester somehow. And then he’d cut it, his last ties with Georgia, the South, all of it.
They had to make a video, of course. Korey had put feelers out to all the famous names in the business, but then one name had popped up out of left field.
When the call came, they were in Korey’s warehouse space, reviewing contracts to turn their hit song into a ringtone, and listening to, of all things, a Belle and Sebastian cover by some country-western dude.
He spit out his coffee when Korey showed him the promo disc. “Dex Dexter?” Rocky laughed. “Like in ‘Dynasty’?” Yes, his cultural education had finished its essential, higher levels, and was now descending into the depths of camp and kitsch.
“Just listen to it,” Korey said. “With, you know, an open mind?”
Rocky shook his head. He knew the name, and the songs attached to it – how could he not, living at UGA, where frat boys were pumping it out of gargantuan speakers all the time? This was a guy who did shit-kickin’ good time America Fuck Yeah music, so Rocky prepared for the worst. But then, the song started.
It was “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” a song with as upbeat a melody as any 60s bubblegum song could aspire to, paired with lyrics full of regret, despair, and sorrow.
There was something about his voice that stabbed Rocky like a knife. It had that generic, music-factory-made country twang, sure, and yet. It was strong, and full and…he was singing his truth, Rocky knew.
Ooh! Get me away from here I’m dying
Play me a song to set me free
Nobody writes them like they used to
So it may as well be me
The voice soared, swooped, full of regret, longing. Rocky was silent at the end, truly moved. He could still hear it, that voice, in his ear, as if he’d heard it before, as if he knew it as well as he knew his own.
“That was …amazing.”
Korey nodded. “Dude took a huge risk. He’s getting a ton of shit for it, too. ‘Fairy music,’ is what the fans are calling it. Gay, etc. It’s not even a single, just buried at the end of his album. But of course, well, you know, Redneckistan.”
“Yeah, don’t I just.” Even a hint of sensitivity was enough to provoke the wild animals into tearing you apart.
Korey’s phone rang, he answered it, and his eyes widened. “Yeah, hi. Wow. Um, yeah. Oh yeah! No, I’m sure they’ll…sure, come on over. Thank you!”
He hung up, grinning like a crocodile. “That was our new music video director. Or will be, if you approve. Which you will. He wants to meet you. He’s in the neighborhood. He’ll be here in five.”
“Okay. Who is it?”
Korey strung out the name with all the weight he could give it. “Frank. James.”
Rocky laughed. Frank James was a famous actor, but had ambitions to be so much more. To be an artist, a writer, a director, everything. He was everywhere all the time, never not working on something.
And in Rocky’s circle, he was famous for something else – his notorious flirtation with homosexuality, or at least with gay culture. He was, allegedly, straight, but his art and his writing were about as homoerotic as you could get. Everyone said he “had to be gay,” because what straight man would be so obsessed with the gayness?
Whatever, Rocky thought. He already knew the way the cycle ran for famous people. A, flirt openly with gender lines and sexual identity. B, cautiously declare yourself bisexual and see what the fallout is like. C, God, finally, you’re gay, everyone already knew it, about time you said it.
Korey opened the door and Frank came in, hugging him, then turned his charm, his energy, on Rocky.
He was handsome, yeah, movie star handsome, but not model handsome. He didn’t have that Sta-Prest look Rocky despised. With his dark eyes (like Nico), his messy brown hair and unshaven face (like Nico), his mile-wide grin (like…yeah, I know, he said to the voice in his head)…
“Hey, man, great to meet you.” Frank took Rocky’s proffered handshake and pulled him into a hug.
He wasn’t cut and built like Nico the athlete, but he was strong…sturdy. The look in his eyes was full of mischief, delight, charm…and lust. Yeah, Rocky thought. I’ve seen that look before. I know this story.
Here we go again, a voice said inside him.
Shut up, he replied. He could feel it, the magnetic pull of Frank’s charm, and he smiled back.
“Great to meet you, too.” And it was, it was great, to feel it again, that surge of hope, of optimism, of desire sent and received…
He knew how it would go. Frank would use him, like Nico used him, at his convenience, for his pleasure, on the down low, and then it would end as fast as it began, and Rocky was glad, so glad, it was what he wanted, whatever he told himself he should want, this was just what he wanted…