I read in a variety of genres and I’ve decided I like “warm” stories. You may have never thought of writing as having a temperature or feel. It certainly does.
I believe I captured this use of flowing language in a male-male romance story I submitted for a Breathless Press anthology, Serviced. My story is titled In His Sights.
One man’s term of service is up and the bitterness of war haunts him. His best friend from college and future lover was killed in an explosion and his work in disarming IEDs didn’t pay off this one time.
A captain quietly pursues him to get him to open and doesn’t let him escape with his anger. I hope the editor likes it and I’ll keep you updated on the progress.
Here’s a brief excerpt. Dalton is a local bar when Captain Shafter takes the seat next to him. Enjoy.
excerpt – In His Sights – submitted for inclusion
A flat screen television showed a baseball game in progress with the closed caption scrolling along the bottom. Someone pumped money in the jukebox and a Keith Urban tune blared. Nature abhorred a vacuum the saying went, and the noise in a bar was proof of that. If the live band took a break, a recording had to jump in its place. Maybe Shafter knew it as well. There really was no such state as simply okay in the life of a warrior.
Dalton took another sip of beer and didn’t try to craft a response. “I’m not fine.” Lying wasn’t going to get him anywhere. He had invisible wounds like so many others and somehow Shafter noticed his.
“What’s so funny?” The mirror was partly blocked by two rows of liquor bottles and handles of draft beer. Shafter’s lips and eyes were visible and there was a light-heartedness about him that made Dalton smile in return. The image looked appealing.
“You see. There can be sincerity in a bar.”
Dalton cradled his mug with both hands and brushed the back of one hand against Shafter’s. “Sounds like a dissertation topic. You going after a Ph.D.? Psychology, sociology?”
“Hardly.” Shafter didn’t move his hand when Dalton brushed against him. He held still for a moment and then lifted his mug for a sip and set it back down. “Although I’m fascinated by human behavior.”
“Planet Earth’s a good place to study it.” Dalton smiled again, amused by his own wit and the warmth from finishing his first brew. He leaned to his left and brushed his shoulder against Shafter. His cock stiffened. So what’s this guy about? The mind was amazing how it could work rapidly and an image flashed through Dalton of him locked in an embrace with Shafter and working his lips against the captain’s in a frenzy. Why not? Maybe he was bi-curious and harbored the desire for the taste of another man. Wild kisses, rolling in bed, and sucking cock would be a good way to end the night. His last fling before finding his way in the no-less-complex world of civilians. Shafter was one hell of a pick-up artist. Or, thought Dalton, I’m so fucking horny I could make love to a barstool.
“What’s so funny?” Now it was Shafter’s turn to ask.
“I was thinking about making love to a barstool.” He snapped his fingers and the bartender responded.
“How you doing, hon?”
“Another pale ale.”
“You got it.” She pointed her index finger at him, winked, and swayed her hips side-to-side and got Dalton his order.
Shafter responded quietly. “Why?”
Dalton had expected the captain to laugh and make some kind of crude retort. “Why the hell not?” Dalton returned the question with a hint of surprise and an air of annoyance.
“A barstool has no feelings.”
“Don’t you think much of the fun is hearing and seeing someone respond?”
He was probing and searching for an opening. Jerry. He had green eyes and a kind smile. His arms were strong and Dalton found solace in them the way he would pull a blanket around his shoulders on a chilly day. Dalton bit his lip and his fingers trembled on the handle of his mug.
Shafter knew about the explosion. Dalton had mentioned it once before giving a seminar on the value of robotics and disabling IEDs.
“I miss him.” Dalton grit his teeth and clenched the handle on his mug so tight he almost broke it.
The last notes of another song from the jukebox ended and the cheery voice of the band’s singer took its place. “Hey, all. This is another original favorite of ours that we performed at Rodeo Days in Phoenix. Hit it Phil.” The twang of the acoustic got the song rolling and Dalton wanted to take his mug and smash it against the mirror. Instead, he pushed it away, leapt abruptly off his seat, and made his way around the crowded tables and past the laughing and hugging patrons. He headed out the door.
His eyes welled up. Fuck the tears. If he could find his car, he’d pound his fist on the hood. Suddenly, the tears began flowing so quickly he couldn’t see. He wanted to jump behind the wheel and take off speeding into the desert night and fly off the first curve into oblivion. He fumbled in his pocket and couldn’t even grab the keys.
Shafter again. Dalton made his way to the edge of the parking lot, away from the street lamps and the angle of the headlights driving in and out of the bar’s parking lot, gravel crunching beneath the tires. “Go back in and fuck with someone else’s mind.” This sure as hell was no way to get another guy in bed. Maybe Shafter was an emotionally sick and twisted pick-up artist.
“Talk to me.”
“Why the hell should I?” Dalton wiped his eyes and sniffled.
“Because you need to talk to someone.” Shafter’s voice was calm.
Dalton hated not being able to control his emotions. That was for his college years and the giddy boy-in-love moments in the stupid frat house. Those days had vanished and his future was as bleak as the Mojave Desert in August. Finally, Dalton composed himself and leaned against the tailgate of a pick-up. He felt like a con man on the run and Shafter the good guy lawman unwavering in his quest for justice. Why fight?
Stars spread like a canopy in the night sky and the serenity let a pleasant memory surface. Dalton spoke up. “You know what Jerry’s favorite TV show was?”
“What?” Shafter stood next to Dalton, resting against the truck’s metal.
“M*A*S*H.” The whimsical theme song and the opening credits with the helicopter bringing in the wounded played in Dalton’s imagination.
“Why do you think that was?”
“I don’t know. The war. People trying to help in a bad situation.” Dalton chuckled. The antics of Frank and Hot Lips came to life. “It was funny. Damned funny.”
“We’d take a break from studying and watch re-runs late at night. And we’d sit on the couch, shoulder-to-shoulder.” Dalton was silent and cast a cautious glance at Shafter. “Did you know that about me?”
“That Jerry was more than your best friend?”
Flashing lights of an airplane twinkled among the stars and headed east. Dalton said nothing and after some minutes passed Shafter broke the silence.
“You know another reason I think M*A*S*H was popular?”
“The characters were funny when they argued, but they also knew the importance of the larger picture. No matter how much they couldn’t stand each other, they set aside their differences and got down to business when the wounded came in.”
“Yeah.” Dalton nodded agreement.
“They were real.”
Dalton shrugged his shoulders and a wave of arousal warmed him. “For some strange reason, I thought maybe you were trying to pick me up.” Shafter’s looks had enough appeal. The softness of his voice and his expressed wisdom touched Dalton at a completely different level.