Excerpt: The Bodyguard’s Dilemma

Okay, I’m a bit late with this, but things have been kind of crazy at work and I haven’t felt like logging in. My new short story, The Bodyguard’s Dilemma will be released as part of Dreamspinner’s Snow on the Roof anthology on February 11, 2013. It’s about a conservative forty-something security specialist who falls for a former porn star.  Here is an excerpt from it:

****

“Jesus Christ, Logan, will you put that thing away? You’re worse than my daughter.” Don, my longtime friend and employer, slapped the two pints of Bud down on the table next to our half-eaten platter of wings and nachos. The foamy head cascaded over the top of the glass and dribbled onto the sticky, scarred surface.

With a guilty start, I slipped the phone back into its holster on my belt, embarrassed to have been caught once again checking for messages like a lovesick teenager. Desperation was not an attractive quality in a man turning forty-five in less than two hours. Why the hell wasn’t there some sort of age limit on infatuation?

“Sorry,” I said, finally loosening my tie and unbuttoning the collar of my dress shirt. “I just really thought he’d call.” I had only gotten back into town yesterday, having wrapped up a protection gig in Denver a day earlier than expected, so the fact that Tyler had not made the drive from San Diego to LA in Friday traffic for my birthday was one thing, but it was unusual not to hear from him at all. Beyond the disappointment, which I was really trying to ignore, worry had started creeping in. What if he’d been in an accident? Maybe he hadn’t paid his cell phone bill again. Or maybe he’s just found a new boyfriend and no longer has any time for an old guy like you, said the caustic voice in my head. Come to think of it, Tyler had been acting a bit strangely lately. I made a mental note to ask him about it when we met up in San Diego next weekend. “It’s just not like him. He usually texts me at least once a day.”

“I don’t fucking believe it. After all you’ve done for him, the kid forgets your birthday, breaks your heart, and you’re still worried about him. It’s Friday night. I’m sure he’s out getting laid, or high, or whatever gay porn stars do on Friday nights.”

Former gay porn star,” I corrected. “And I believe the correct term these days is ‘model’.”

Don grunted.

“And for the record,” I continued, “he hasn’t broken my heart. We’re just… friends. No hearts involved.”

“Bullshit. I’ve raised two daughters. I’d know that mopey look anywhere.” Don raised his beer in salute. “Happy birthday, man.”

I hid behind my own sweating glass and concentrated on keeping my expression inscrutable. Don wasn’t too far off in his assessment, I acknowledged with somewhat bitter honesty. I must be slipping if he could read me so easily, or else I had become too used to pencil pusher Don and forgotten he had once been a crack investigator in his own right. When his successful private security firm took the case of infamous porn actor Tyler Hart three years ago, with me as the lead consultant, I hadn’t dreamed of ever falling for a man nearly twenty years my junior, let alone one who fucked on camera for a living. Arriving in San Diego to investigate the death threats Tyler had been receiving, and which the police weren’t taking very seriously, I had expected a high-maintenance diva, the sort of in-your-face queen I saw all too frequently the few times I hit the clubs; what I found instead was a polite, smart young man, mature beyond his years, who was struggling to find a new direction for his life. I was hooked from the start.

The attraction itself hadn’t surprised me—I had finally accepted my sexuality after the end of a fifteen-year marriage to my college sweetheart, and Tyler was undeniably gorgeous—but the strength of it had caught me off guard. I prided myself on being able to keep an objective distance from clients—it’s why I was so good at my job—but in Tyler, that mix of boy-next-door innocence and raw sexuality was an irresistible combination that overran my usual caution. No wonder he had been so successful in porn. He was every man’s fantasy.

“So….” Don had to lean across the table to be heard over the noise in the bar. The place was close to our office and packed for the start of the weekend. “Have you ever seen it?”

“What?”

“You know.” Don waggled his eyebrows lecherously. For a minute I thought he meant Tyler’s perfectly cut seven inch penis, or that amazing ass with the trademark heart tattoo on the right cheek, and a traitorous wave of heat washed over my face. That one night in Vegas, Tyler strutting around the hotel suite naked without an inch of modesty, was permanently burned into my brain. It had fueled most of my masturbatory fantasies for the past three years. “I mean he was kind of a hotshot, wasn’t he?” Don continued. “Won all sorts of awards.”

The porn, right. “Jesus, no,” I croaked. “He was a kid, Don, a kid. I can’t watch that shit.” I drained the rest of my beer, my throat suddenly dry and tight. He barely talked about it now, but the contents of Tyler’s thick file were still etched into my memory. Sixteen-years old and a runaway, Tyler had been tempted into porn by a much older boyfriend, essentially traded to some scumbag producer for a few grams of coke, and though he refused to identify himself as a victim, it still filled me with fury to think of grown men taking advantage of a naive teenager like that. I had never watched any of his videos, but I’d seen pictures of Tyler at that age; small and scrawny, he’d still looked like a baby to me. The thought of actually seeing that innocence corrupted made me either want to throw up or kill someone.

“Too bad.” Don shrugged his beefy shoulders. “I just wondered if he was worth all the hype. Another round?”

“Hell, yeah.” I didn’t often lose control, but tonight seemed like a good night to forget about my usual three drink limit, and if Don was paying, then I was definitely in. He gave me a sympathetic thump on the shoulder with a meaty paw before squeezing his bulk out of the booth and heading to the bar. The lump in my throat got bigger. Thank God for Don. If not for him I’d be spending my birthday alone… again. At least this time I was back in “HelLA”, as Tyler called it, and not on the road raiding the minibar in a lonely hotel room. I watched Don bully his way up to the bartender and smiled. Despite his gruff exterior, the man was all bark and no bite. We’d known each other for the better part of two decades; Don had been there through the shooting that left me deskbound, the depression that followed, and the drinking. When I finally quit the LAPD and got sober, he just handed me a case file and a plane ticket to New York—I’d been working for him ever since. One week I could be on the east coast interviewing employees and conducting routine background checks, and the next I would be clear across the country, providing armed protection to some rich bigwig. I loved it, and Don, the bastard, knew it.

The job saved me; it gave me something to believe in again, and God knows it had been a welcome distraction as I tried to rebuild my life. Even after Deb and I finally decided to call it quits, and I quietly came out of the closet, Don barely blinked, although for Christmas that year he gave me a huge dildo with a card that read “Practice makes perfect”. He was my rock. My fat, bald-headed, foulmouthed rock.

As soon as Don was out of sight, swallowed by the crowd around the bar, I pulled out my BlackBerry, even though it hadn’t so much as vibrated. I couldn’t help it. But there was nothing. My thumb hovered over Tyler’s number. Should I call him? Maybe just send him a quick text? I could almost hear Don’s voice in my head telling me to “man up,” so I ditched that idea and scrolled through some recent photos instead. The kid loved to take pictures—of himself mostly, but also of me when he could catch me off guard, or of the pet gecko he’d recently bought. Some, carefully selected, he Tweeted for his small following of loyal fans; most he sent directly to me. My e-mail was cluttered with them, but I could never bring myself to delete any. I stopped at one of my new favorites. Tyler’s still-boyish face smiled back at me, baseball cap askew, and, as always, I got that little kick in my stomach. I’d taken him to the Dodgers game two weeks ago during one of the rare breaks I had at home, and he looked so much more relaxed and happy than when I first met him three years ago. I liked to think I had played a small role in that.

“I take it the twink still hasn’t called,” Don said drily, placing a fresh draft and a shot of vodka in front of me.

Busted, I put the phone away. “I’m impressed. You’ve been reading the queer dictionary again, Don. Hey, why am I the only one drinking?”

“’Cause you’re the birthday boy. And I’m driving.”

I slammed back the shot, grimacing as it burned down my esophagus. Don tore off a corner of the paper coaster, using it to pick leftover chicken wings from his teeth as he gave me that look, the one people who’ve known you a long time feel they have the right to give you.

“Okay, what?”

“Just never thought I’d see the day—hard-ass Logan Chase, mooning over some pretty, young hustler.”

“I am not mooning. And who even says that anymore?”

“I’m old, man, sue me. You are too.”

“Yeah, thanks for the reminder.”

“Just telling you how it is.” Don belched, long and low.

“Nice. And he’s not a hustler.”

“Oh yeah? How many times have you covered his rent? You paid for his mom’s plane ticket—”

“Because it was my idea to see if he could patch things up with her. And he’s paid me back for everything. Trust me—if he was out to scam me, he could have done it a long time ago.” I scrubbed a hand over my bristly head, still unused to the texture of the military style cut. I’d recently discovered that if I kept my hair ruthlessly short, the silver at the temples was less noticeable, and I wouldn’t be mistaken for Tyler’s dad again if we went out. Once was more than enough, thank you very much. I forced that embarrassing, ego-destroying moment out of my mind and tried to concentrate on the conversation. “He won’t take charity. I had to practically force him to accept the acting lessons for his birthday last year.”

“This is my fault.” Don shook his head. “I should have known when I sent my sex-starved friend to rescue some hot twink in trouble that you’d end up falling for the kid.”

“You’re good, Don, but there’s no way you could have known that.”

“You’re a born protector, Logan. That’s what makes you the best. Defender of the weak and all that shit. You love to be needed—always looking out for everyone but yourself. Of course you’d fall for him.”

I stared down into the golden bubbles in my glass, but I knew from experience I wouldn’t find the answers I sought in there. Don didn’t understand my relationship with Tyler any more than I did. We weren’t lovers. We never even flirted. But on occasion, I’d felt the pulse of something deeper between us, and I didn’t think it was all just in my head. My feelings for Tyler were complicated; equal parts lust, admiration, and affection. And yes, a powerful need to protect him, even now.

Snow on the Roof is available for pre-order from Dreamspinner Press in either print or ebook format.

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One Response to Excerpt: The Bodyguard’s Dilemma

  1. I just finished the anthology and I loved your story, one of my favorites from this collection 🙂
    Would like to read a longer story about these guys ))))

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