Daron Marks is a young guitar player with a dream, make it big like the guys he grew up idolizing in New Jersey–or at least escape his dysfunctional family. He makes it as far as music school in Rhode Island, and the rock clubs of Boston beckon him. But it’s hard to succeed from the closet. A story of how finding one’s self is key to finding love, and loving one’s self is key to loving another.
In this excerpt, Daron’s in a hotel in New York City. It’s Christmas time, and Daron knows Ziggy’s in New York, too. They had a brief encounter the night before and Ziggy slipped his pager number into Daron’s pocket. It’s almost six in the morning and Daron’s been awake all night when he gives in and pages Ziggy:
The phone rang gratifyingly quickly. “Hey. I guess you’re not sleeping either.”
“I’m on West Coast time,” Ziggy said. “Where it’s only three in the morning.”
“Uh huh,” I said, unconvinced.
We sat there in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. I was the one who had paged him, so was it on me to say something? But he was the one who put the “call me” message into my pocket, so….
“Maybe we should get together to talk,” I finally said.
“Can you get away from your family?” he asked.
“For a couple of hours, no one’ll miss me,” I said. “But I wanted to ask what you’re doing for the holiday tonight. Tomorrow. No pressure, but you could join us here.”
“Daron, how should I put this…” He breathed, and I imagined him sighing with his eyes closed. “Your group there is kind of overwhelming. I’m not good with crowds.”
“I never thought I’d hear you say that.”
“You know what I mean.”
“Actually, I don’t. Explain it? I’m listening.” I lay back to listen.
“I mean, I’m fine with crowds if I’m the center of attention. But I don’t want to be—and shouldn’t be—the center of attention at your chosen family’s gathering.”
“Why shouldn’t you be? You outshine everyone in any room you walk into.” This room felt like it was spinning slightly. I had definitely drunk more than usual.
“Like there’s a spotlight on me?”
“Like you’re a star that fell out of heaven. Ziggy, you’re the most gorgeous human being I’ve ever laid eyes on, and that’s as true today as it was that day in the park.”
“I’m telling the truth.”
“Because you’re drunk.”
“Because I’ve been to therapy. And I’ve realized there are a lot of things I could have been saying that I haven’t been.” I thought about what Bart had said, that maybe me being forthright and truthful about my feelings was actually scary to Ziggy. If so, I was probably freaking him out completely right now. “Am I freaking you out? I’m not trying to. I just… have this thing about the truth.”
“Uh huh,” he said cautiously. “And if the truth is… it’s too late?”
“Then tell me to go fuck myself: break my heart and send me on my fucking way.”
“Whoa. Whoa.” There was a kind of long silence while I guess he tried to figure out what to say to that. Or got himself together. I don’t know which. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“It’s worth asking, isn’t it? Is it too late, Zig?” It felt crazy-good that I could send him spinning by speaking so baldly. Of course, the only reason it didn’t hurt like fuck to say was because alcohol had numbed me so much at that point. “Did I wait too long to tell you I loved you? Is it just fucking tragic when I say it?”
“Okay, you know what? I want to make a rule. No saying ‘I love you’ over the phone.”
“You don’t want me to tell you I love you?”
“On the phone. Seriously. I’m coming over there and then you can say it to my face.”
About The Author
Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. RT Magazine awarded her Career Achievement in Erotic Romance in 2015 and their prestigious Pioneer Award. Tan’s BDSM romance novel Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever, 2013) also won the RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance and the Maggie Award for Excellence from the Georgia Romance Writers chapter of RWA. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.