Hello, Amelia, what a lovely name. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
As a writer? I became a confirmed bibliophile in the third grade. By the sixth grade, I was writing short stories, and even publishing them in the class newspaper, which was basically a single-sided photocopied sheet (actually, it may have been mimeographed, our school was poor and didn’t have a photocopier just yet.)
In the seventh grade I discovered bodice-ripper romance novels. I started off really well, I will say that. The first romance novel I ever read was Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Ashes in the Wind which to this day I think really sets a bar for the historical romance genre. The late Ms. Woodiwiss is very rightly known as the Queen of Historical Romance for a reason. She published very few novels, but they were all so lush and gorgeous, even the ones written in the 70s and 80s which contained the troublesome tropes endemic to the genre at that time. Ashes in the Wind really was the pinnacle of her career, in my opinion.
Anyway, by the summer between the seventh and eighth grade, I had decided that I could write a romance novel. Which I actually began doing (and yes, it would have been horrible; I was 12, after all.) Not long thereafter, I fell into a series of fandoms. ST:TNG, X-Files, and then most recently some video game fandoms, and I gave up writing original fiction for about twenty-five years in favor of fanfiction. It was in fandom that I discovered a knack for writing erotica.
At first, I was actually a little troubled by it, that my erotica would do so much better than my more literary attempts. I mean, I know sex sells, but I wanted to be a serious writer, right? So I’d bristle every time my PWP stuff was far more popular than my plotty stuff which I worked so much harder on. And then a couple years ago, someone told me that what I was actually writing was SWS or “smut with substance” which I had never heard of before. What I had been doing was taking these very crackfic smut ideas and fleshing them out, using sex as a sort of springboard for character exploration and discovery. So I would end up with these… smut epics, really. 200,000-400,000 word novels which were heavily erotic, yes, but which also really explored the characters in ways no one had every looked at them. And it made sense to me that would happen, because of course what we desire and pursue sexually can really teach us a lot about who we are and what we believe. So I began to embrace my status as a purveyor of smut. Or, as the friend who encouraged me to begin self-publishing put it, I finally said, “fuck it, it’s my idiom.”
So when I ventured back into writing original characters in original settings, it felt very natural that erotic romance was where I would find my voice.
Okay, that turned out to be more than a little bit.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
Well, Inertia is my first actual published book. I’ve written a number of novels in various fandoms over the years, of course, but I keep that separate from my original writing. As a self-published author, of course, my journey is considerably different that those who have gone through publishers, small or large.
I realize that can throw my legitimacy into question, because I don’t go through the vetting process of submitting to and being accepted or rejected by a publisher, which is a layer readers count on to be sure they’re spending their money on quality material. One hopes, of course, that the quality of my work is sufficient to overcome that. The friend who encouraged me to consider self-publishing, who is an avid reader of m/m erotic and purchases a great deal of it, did so because she said my work was much better that most of the stuff she was purchasing at Amazon. I suppose only time will tell, on that front.
For myself, I’ve chosen to self-publish for a number of reasons. I don’t doubt that I could find acceptance with some of the smaller presses and publishers now releasing m/m material, and that may be an option I pursue in the near future. But for the Impulse trilogy, which is a story that is very dear to me because I’ve become so intimately involved with the characters, I really wanted a degree of control over things like the cover art. Kerry Chin (http://dragonreine.deviantart.com) is a brilliant artist and a good friend whom I met through fandom. She developed the sort of intimate attachment to these characters that I have, so that she could really bring them to life. For that reason alone, going the self-publishing route was completely worth it.
The downside, however, is that I’m doing all the work that a publisher would do for you. I’m doing all my own marketing and PR. Hiring an editor and proofreader comes out of my own pocket. My husband and I had to find the funds in our household budget to have Inertia edited by a professional freelance editor. And I really have to give my husband credit for that. He invested in me, both in terms of picking up the slack that my writing schedule has created with childrearing and housekeeping, and actually in financial terms.
It was worth every penny to hire Danielle (http://www.daniellepoiesz.com), however. She’s truly top-notch and I can’t commend her highly enough. The book came out much stronger in terms of both story and characterization, and I learned so much from the process. I took a lot of those lessons with me into writing Book Two, as well, and Book Two, I feel, came out much stronger, with a much more clearly defined character arc and plot elements that layered and build upon one another very seamlessly.
With regard to how long it actually took to get published, I began writing the first draft of Inertia in November of 2011. I finished in January or early February, I believe. In April my husband and I made the decision to hire a professional editor as I wasn’t having any luck finding a critique partner who would give me the sort of feedback I needed and had both the time to do the critique and the technical ability and attention to detail to do a thorough edit. Then there was a wait for an opening on Danielle’s schedule, and finally I got my editor’s notes back at the end of May. I spent about six weeks heavily revising–by which I mean I rewrote a full 40-50% of the book from scratch.
The hitch in the process was that afterward I did not have the budget to have these extensive revisions professionally line-edited and proofed. I did the best I could, of course, and recruited a number of friends to read it and catch what errors they could as well, but come mid-July, it was time to get it published and make an attempt to get some return on the investment we had made in the book. To my deepest humiliation, a few errors did slip through and a couple reviewers noticed them.
I quickly found another set of eyes to go over the story (my thanks to m/m romance author Evie Kiels at the GoodReads M/M Romance Writer’s board) and uploaded the revisions. Hopefully, there are no more errors to be found and if there are, I will make the corrections as soon as they are brought to my attention, because I feel quite passionately that anyone who spends their money on a piece of my work should get the most polished product I can possibly deliver.
Any of my readers who downloaded through SmashWords can re-download the revised copy free of charge, I know. I believe that ability is also available at Amazon. If not, anyone who has purchased through Amazon can contact me on Twitter, on Facebook, on my website (http://ameliacgormley.com/about/) and I will get them a revised copy in the format of their choice.
I actually highly recommend my readers download the newest version anyway. While I had the artwork already, when I needed to have the print cover layout for Inertia and the cover layout for Acceleration done, I wasn’t able to go to the person who did the original ebook layout. I hired someone new and that person had an entirely new concept for the layout which is frankly gorgeous, and so I had him retroactively apply that concept to the ebook and interior Inertia. So the cover art and interior of Inertia are all new and I highly recommend readers download the new version. It’s gorgeous.
Wow. I’m really wordy today.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I actually only started writing m/m romance about three years ago. I had been interested in it a long time, but coming from fandom, particularly in, say, the 1990s, there were a number of problematic issues with most of the m/m offerings. I have always been a very vocal proponent of the gay community and gay relationships, and loved the idea of there being more representation of that within fandom. However, a lot of slash fic relied on characterization that just didn’t ring true in order to make canonically and often vehemently heterosexual characters embark upon gay relationships or same-sex flings or explorations. A lot of times the authors were focused more on just getting a couple hot characters sexing than they were in exploring why those characters would be sexing, which meant troublesome tropes like non-con, dub-con, or abusive hatesex would be employed in disturbing ways.
Then, as television and video game producers became aware of the genre and the demand for these pairings, there came the habit of queer-baiting. So it was very difficult to find characters in m/m fic who felt like they were handled true to their canonical characterization without all these other troubling aspects. It really gave me a bad impression of m/m fiction as a genre, at least in fandom circles, and to my knowledge, at that time, there was little to no m/m original fiction widely available.
Then after taking a break from fandom for about a decade, I came back to discover that things had changed quite a bit. There were canonically gay characters–or at least characters whose sexuality was ambiguous enough that they could be presented as gay or bisexual without warping their characterization beyond recognition or relying on problematic themes and tropes. Getting into m/m fanfiction led me to the discovery of m/m romance as an original fiction genre. That happened just at the time when I was starting to step away from fandom and fanfiction and begin creating original characters and settings again, so it was just wonderfully serendipitous.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
Well, as I said before, my journey as a self-published author is quite a bit different. I didn’t go through the rejection/approval slog so many authors do. It was eight months from deciding to write the novel to publishing it. I feel very self-conscious saying that, and I know self-published authors have sometimes deservedly gotten a bad rap for circumventing the structure that is in place to filter out the chaff. It’s a new era in the way we access our fiction, for better or worse. But I still feel like I need to establish my bona fides or that I’ve skipped a step in the due diligence process, in that regard. But it is what it is.
With regard to how many books I’ve written, if you want to include my fanfiction novels, I’ve written perhaps a dozen or so novels, and a couple dozen novellas and short stories.
Inertia is finished and in its second edition now, and it is my first published piece. Acceleration, the sequel to Inertia is written and I’m just waiting to get my edits back on that and it will be published hopefully at the end of November. Velocity, Book Three, is in the works and if all goes well, I’m eyeballing a February or March publication date for that.
And I’ve also written another novel, a post-apocalyptic interracial m/m erotic romance, that I am pleased to say I have submitted to one of the fantastic publishers of m/m romance and erotica (no, I won’t say which.) I don’t know if it will be accepted yet, and if it’s not, I don’t know whether I will try to submit it to another press, or if I will self-publish it. It’s also quite possible that there will be a sequel to that book. I left the possibility open, but it hasn’t been written yet.
Do you write full time?
And then some. My husband and son probably know the back of my laptop monitor far better than they do my face. That’s an exaggeration, but…. The fact is, I do try to write from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. The actual amount of time I get to spend writing is considerably less, however, because I’m a stay-at-home parent.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
It was never a choice. From almost the moment I began to read, I began to write. I had stories to tell, so I told them. I saw other people telling them in the books I read, and I knew I could do that, too. And that I had to do that, because stories want to be shared. It’s in their nature.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
I suppose “at my computer” is too boring an answer?
Well, on any given day, my writing is filled with interruptions. I have a son who just started kindergarten this year, so at present I’m a full-time mother. There are meals to make and games to play and books to read. When he’s entertaining himself nicely, I slip away to my computer and that is why I spend more like 16 hours a day trying to write than treating it as more of an 8 hour a day job. Until he’s in school full-time, I need to sneak my writing time into the sporadic moments when I have a lull in my primary job.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
I am a terrible, terrible tweaker. If I need to backtrack and look at something, to refer back to it or remember what I did before, I’m likely to read over what I’ve written and tweak it as I go. Which is not necessarily a good trait. I can get sidetracked, and often introduce more editing errors than I catch in the process.
If I don’t need to backtrack to refer back or refresh my memory on something, I tend to write straight through, unless I remember something I meant to add and didn’t. I’m much more productive that way.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I usually start with a loose outline, a rough idea of what the overall arc of the story will be, and what will happen in each chapter, but then once I’m writing, the characters tend to take over the story and things can end up going places I didn’t imagine they would. One chapter may end up becoming two because a scene ends up taking longer than expected, etc.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
It depends on just how familiar I am with the era and the setting. Having grown up in Flint, Michigan the Impulse trilogy really doesn’t require that much research, as far as the setting goes. I did a bit more research into eastern Tennessee to begin to understand what Derrick’s voice would sound like if he still had a hint of an accent, just where he would have lived, and so forth. I researched gay bars in Detroit to find which one would be the most appropriate for Derrick to go to, timed the circuit he drive around Detroit, that sort of thing.
Then, of course, there’s the sex research, which is an absolute necessity for woman trying to write m/m fiction. I had to research which sex acts would actually require barrier protection without undue risk. And then also which sex acts I could actually forego barrier protection on because Derrick and Gavin are both informed and aware of where the statistical risk is virtually nil, so I can do something like, say, have Gavin rimming Derrick without having to detail protection, because for all the talk about dental dams we run across, HIV transmission through saliva is not the danger it’s been made out to be. This enables me to strike a realistic balance between what is sexy and what is safe and realistic. I also had to research the AIDS denialism movement and the basis of their claims.
For Book Two I also did more research into some issues regional to Detroit (for instance, how would they spend Halloween, with Detroit having such a bad reputation for Devil’s Night?) How does Derrick’s recreational hockey league work? When would he begin practices? For Book Three I need to do more research into Gavin’s Judaism so that I can accurately portray the way he and Derrick’s friend Hannah will observe Hanukkah. Author PD Singer has been a wonderful resource there as well.
My manuscript I submitted to a publisher is set here in Oregon, so I am very familiar with the setting there, though I did do a lot of research into how the modern world would work without the functioning power grid, running water, gas pipelines, and so forth.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
I can’t really say any of the characters in Inertia manifest many traits of people I know personally. Derrick, for instance, is almost a textbook Virgo with heavy Taurus influence, or Taurus with heavy Virgo influence. He was that way from the very beginning, hich is quite amusing because I didn’t set out for him to be. In fact, I knew and still know next to nothing about astrology. I created Derrick and started writing him, and then the time came to decide upon his birthday, so I started looking into zodiac signs to see which one would fit him. It was like, “Oh, I remember something about Virgos being reserved. Let’s look that up….” And next thing you know, I was staring at a laundry list of Derrick’s personality traits. Apparently, according to author Leta Blake, Libras have a tendency to write Tauruses and I’m a Libra.
I’ve never set out of model a character after myself or anyone I know.
Chelsea is the exception. Chelsea is my sister’s dog, with the name changed to protect the innocent.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
Seeing that this is my first published book, I don’t know if I can lay claim to any sort of average time. This one took eight months, from conception to publication. Back in one fandom, I once wrote and posted a 44-chapter, 212,000-word story in just over two months. Obviously the bar for editing and polishing was much lower there. When motivation and inspiration are high and interruptions are low, I can be insanely productive. I wrote my post-apocalyptic manuscript in 29 days. Almost 66K words.
Adding a professional caliber editing and revision process into the mix, of course, stretches the timeline out quite a ways. Often that is due to scheduling. For instance, Acceleration has been written since mid-August and the self-editing portion done since mid-September. (I began writing back in February, I believe, but took a long break to focus on edits to Book One.) But my editor is so awesome, she has a wait list and was booked up until the end of October, so I won’t have her notes back until the first or second week of November. Instead I’m looking at a release of late November/early December. I’m aiming for Black Friday.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I have been known to suffer from it, usually when stress from something unrelated to writing takes over my brain space. If I have a friend in crisis or I’m embroiled in a conflict with someone, or there are nagging concerns, I just can’t find my words. Usually I have to wait until the stress is balanced out a bit more again, and then get deep enough into the writing that the story is the dominant voice in my head. I’ve found that hormones can influence my ability to write, and I can usually count on there being a few days a month when I might as well find something else to do with my time because the voice just isn’t there.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
Mostly I just hope they find something that rings very true to them. A thought. An image. A reaction. A sentiment. A fetish. Whatever it may be, I hope there’s something in there that they can latch on to and say, “I know that. That strikes a chord within me.”
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Social media exposure is not optional. OMG. I’m presently struggling to learn how to navigate a lot of social media that has been around for many years, but which I never got into before because I didn’t really need it. This has put me behind the curve a bit.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Usually sometime in the writing process. Titles are hard. To take something that encompasses so much in your mind and distill it down to a word or phrase that doesn’t feel contrived or pretentious or overwrought is about the most difficult part of the process for me.
That said, the title for the post-apocalyptic piece pretty much handed itself to me almost before I began writing. Sometimes it just falls into place.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I’m very dry and wry, and often reliant on puns and plays on words. I’m not terribly witty or quick on my feet. Comedy will always be the thing I struggle with the most in my writing. When my characters are trying to be funny, it’s really very difficult because I feel like my attempts at humor are corny and forced.
For an author of gay romance, I write a lot of straight-men. Ba-dum-ching!
What are you working on now?
Right now I am planning Velocity, which is Impulse Book Three, getting ready to receive the editor’s notes for Book Two, and waiting to hear back on the manuscript I submitted.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
Just keep writing, really, seems to be the most common wisdom. Don’t stop. Start and keep going. The law of inertia applies.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Social media really seems to be where it’s at with regards to marketing books these days. Word of mouth referral. That’s where I’m trying to get my name out and build, well, a sort of brand recognition.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
I’ve found answering prompts to be tremendously inspiring when I’m just coming up blank for new ideas. And sometimes prompts happen accidentally. The post-apocalyptic novel I write was prompted by an open call and I just realized wow, yeah, I have a story to tell there.
What kind of books do you like to read?
All sorts, really. Historical romance. Contemporary romance. Speculative fictions. Paranormal and urban fantasy. Science fiction. Alternate history. The list goes on. If there’s a character and a world that captures my interest, I’m there.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
A midwife. I actually was studying to be one when I got pregnant with my son. I didn’t complete the studying because the scheduling of an apprenticeship wouldn’t work for my family, but it’s a field I’m very passionate about.
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
All over the place, really. Sometimes, I just encounter a situation where there’s a story that needs to be told. Impulse was actually born in a role-play a friend and I were doing with original characters we had created. We began speculating on what these characters would do if they were translated to the modern world with modern issues. That’s where Derrick and Gavin came from.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
Well, so far I’ve only had the one cover, and it was just gorgeous. Kerry did a fantastic job. That eye contact the portrait of Derrick is making, he just looks so soulful and intent. His posture and expression in the image where he’s reaching up for Gavin, there’s so much yearning there, you really see what I was trying to convey with the character. This is a guy who has been keeping his passions trapped behind a dam for a decade, and that dam is starting to crack. And Gavin looks so somber and conflicted. Oh! I can’t even. It’s in all ways wonderful. And Michael at BookNibbles did a wonderful job framing that with the text in a way that was really eye-catching.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I sing. I enjoy theatre. I play video games, I role play. I’m a huge geek. I am usually involved with one fandom or another at any given time. I crochet and cross-stitch, also.
And, of course, I’m a mom. That’s always fun, even when sometimes it’s not.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Oh, God. Hit me up again for advice in twenty years or so when I actually have figured all this out myself. I’m really very much a neophyte. I don’t feel qualified to give advice yet.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Aside from Books Two and Three, and the post-apocalyptic story, I’m also still in the conceptualizing stage of a possible series of contemporary erotic shorts that will be heavily BDSM themed. I’m not sure yet whether it will pan out.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
My blog is: http://ameliacgormley.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amelia-C-Gormley/390177891036680 (my fan page) and http://www.facebook.com/ameliacgormley (my actual account)
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
I will treat you to a sneak peek from Book Two, when Derrick and Gavin are getting ready for a Halloween party (this is ARC quality, as it won’t be going to the editor for another week or two.) I’m pretty proud of it because as I said before, I struggle with humor, but this time it just seemed to work.
“… I’m dressing as what now?”
Gavin grinned, stroking his hand down the velvet collar of a black coat. He’d already showered and had begun to get ready for the party by the time Derrick got home from coaching football practice.
“A Regency gentleman.” The grin persisted even as Derrick looked at him blankly. “Come on. It’ll be sexy. A little touch of Heathcliff or Mr. Darcy…?”
Derrick blinked. “You had movie night with Andi recently, didn’t you?”
“Nope.” Gavin shook his head. “Got this one from you. Way back when you said you didn’t talk much and weren’t a lot of fun at parties. So I figured you could pull off the brooding gentleman.”
“Interesting thought, but I think I’m fresh out of brood.”
“You did say conservative.”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Well, what could be more conservative than….”
“… than looking like something off the cover of a million romance novels?” Derrick’s voice rose incredulously.
“No, babe, that would be my costume.” Gavin’s grin widened as he pulled another garment bag out of the closet and spread it open on the bed.
“… Those are ruffles.”
“Mm-hm.” Gavin bounced on his heels. “I’m going to be a pirate.”
“Not the unwashed, green-toothed, scurvy kind, I take it.”
“No, more along the lines of Fabio, minus all the bulky beefcake. The bare-chested, rip-your-clothes-off-and-ravish-you kind.” Gavin slipped his arms around Derrick’s waist, kissing the point of his chin. “You’ve got better hair to pull off the look, truth be told, but I didn’t think you’d go for it.”
“What, ripping your clothes off and ravishing you?” Derrick chuckled, clasping his hands behind Gavin’s shoulders. “Just what sort of Halloween party is this supposed to be, anyway?”
“Not that kind.” Gavin laughed, tugging on Derrick’s hips. “Intriguing as the notion might be. I meant I didn’t think you’d go for wearing the open shirt and leather pants.”
“Leather pants. Were pirates known for those?”
“Only the really hot ones on the covers of romance novels.”
Derrick chuckled, peeling off his t-shirt and heading toward the shower. “We’re not going for authenticity here, I take it?”
Gavin’s laughter followed him. “Wait until you see Andi’s costume and ask me that!”
He and Gavin were still trying to figure out how to tie the neck cloth when Andi arrived at Gavin’s apartment. They might have been done already, if not for the fact that Gavin’s costume kept distracting Derrick.
Or at least, it kept distracting Derrick’s hands.
He hung back, fidgeting with his high collar as Gavin answered the door. He remembered too well the concerned texts from Andi Gavin had answered their first weekend together. Derrick had walked out on him the week before after Gavin revealed Lukas may have left him HIV positive. He wasn’t proud of running away, nor could he make any excuse when he’d come back. Gavin had forgiven him, but from the way Andi had kept texting him that weekend, Derrick got the impression she was concerned, either about Derrick leaving Gavin in the first place, or coming back afterward.
He might not have dated in over a decade, but he wasn’t unaware of the importance of the best friend as a sort of romantic gatekeeper. He had to be prepared for Andi’s scrutiny.
Before a greeting had even left Gavin’s lips, however, a short figure in a tricorn and colonial-era naval uniform had grabbed his wrists and clapped shackles on them, declaring him under arrest for acts of piracy.
Derrick’s eyebrows crept upward. Leading Gavin by the chain between his wrists, the grinning, androgynous figure stepped around him and approached Derrick. She seemed ridiculously slim in the narrow-cut white breeches and naval coat gleaming with brass buttons. Her dark hair was pulled back in a club at the base of her skull, making her cheekbones appear impossibly high and sharp. Her dark green eyes twinkled and she extended a hand to Derrick.
“Hi. I’m Andi. I’m glad to finally have a chance to meet you.”
With an uncertain smile, he shook her hand. “Hi, I’m Derrick.” He looked over her head at Gavin, who played up his captivity with delight. “I thought you said this wasn’t that sort of party.”
“BYOB,” Gavin said with a careless shrug. “Bring Your Own Bondage.”
A round of helpless laughter and groans later, Andi fixed the mess they’d made of Derrick’s neck cloth. Which, she informed them with a stern look, was called a cravat, thankyouverymuch.
“It’s a bit anachronistic with our theme, isn’t it?” she asked Gavin as her hands worked at Derrick’s throat.
“I know.” Gavin said, playing with his manacles. The long, pale line of his chest attracted Derrick’s helpless gaze again. His open shirt, tucked in and bloused out from leather pants that laced up the sides, did more to draw attention to his body than cover it.
“Andi’s a librarian,” he explained. “She takes her historical costumes very serious—oof!” He grunted as Andi’s elbow caught him in his exposed midriff, chuckling. “None of the colonial gentlemen’s costumes were the right size. So I went for the next best thing. Besides, it’s like Derrick said, we’re not going for authenticity here.”
Gavin’s car was a two-seater and Andi’s, it turned out, was full of books. Derrick ended up driving to the party, Gavin scrunched into the half-seat in the back of the cab of his truck. Andi, grinning all the while, had insisted upon her “prisoner” being seated in the back, even though her legs were far shorter. As Derrick drove, Gavin regaled him with stories of the years he and Andi had roomed together in college, including one memorable incident where he caught a guy doing the walk of shame out of Andi’s room one morning… whom Andi had caught slinking out of Gavin’s room just a few weeks before.
However much Gavin teased her about it, it was obvious Andi did intend to act out the role that came with her costume. She led Gavin into the party by his shackles and made a point of playing the jailer. Derrick followed behind them, amused by the interplay, and grateful it took some of the pressure off him to be outgoing. Gavin introduced Derrick to his friend Jason and a number of coworkers, and poured drinks for them all before he took Andi for a spin on the dance floor with Derrick’s blessing.
Gavin hadn’t been lying when he’d spoken about his experience as a dancer, Derrick realized, blinking at the two of them. They moved well together, and Derrick realized they’d probably been dancing together at parties and clubs since college. It was interesting to see Gavin among his friends, laughing and joking. He was at ease in a crowd, a trait Derrick envied. Sipping his whiskey, Derrick could only admire Gavin’s confidence and surety.
It wasn’t long before the press of people became too much, and Derrick slipped away to a quiet corner where it felt a little easier to breathe. It was there Andi found him.
“You, too, huh?” she asked with a soft smile, sitting on the sofa beside him.
“Sorry, me too, what?”
“You’re not good with crowds.” She smiled, sipping her wine. “Me, either.”
“Really?” Derrick lifted an eyebrow at her. “The way you’ve been hamming it up tonight?”
She nodded. “It’s the costume. I do it every year. I find it’s a lot easier to be outgoing in a crush of people when I’m not me. So, I role-play a bit at these parties. Also, I just like being theatrical.”
Derrick smiled, his eyes seeking out Gavin, where he was engaged in conversation with some of his coworkers. His gaze met Derrick’s past their shoulders, his eyes warm and promising. He stopped staring when he realized Andi was watching him watch Gavin.
“You’re not jealous at all that he’s not stuck to your side, are you? That he spent time dancing with me.”
Derrick gave her a confused look. “Why should I be?”
“This time last year, it would have been a problem.” Her mouth tightened. “You know, when you walked out on Gavin and then came back, on the heels of all he’s been through, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to like you, even seeing how happy he’s been the past couple months. I wanted to give you a fair shot, but I was nervous.”
“I can’t blame you,” Derrick said with a small smile, pleased by her candor. “If it’d been my best friend, I probably would’ve had reservations, too. I was nervous, too. I know how much you mean to Gav, and I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. I’m not even going to begin to make excuses for what I did.”
“Gavin seems to think you must have your reasons.”
“Yeah, but they don’t really matter. It was a shitty thing to do, and I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t.” Derrick bit the inside of his cheek thoughtfully. “So. The costumes. The role-playing, in a way that made it a thing just between the two of you. How much of it was you staking claim to your place, trying to send a signal that you weren’t going to tolerate someone getting between you again?”
Andi’s eyes widened in astonishment and her mouth dropped open. She seemed to struggle with a reflexive denial before she caught herself. Then she settled back down, frowning.
“Probably more than I’m comfortable admitting, even to myself,” she sighed after a moment. “But it wasn’t intentional, I promise. I hope I didn’t make you feel alienated.”
“Don’t worry, you didn’t.” Derrick sipped his whiskey, his eyes returning to Gavin. He felt Andi’s hand on his shoulder and turned back to her.
“You should tell him why you walked out,” she murmured, rising. “Maybe you don’t think it matters, but it might to him.”
Andi smiled and called out a greeting as the woman Gavin had introduced as Jason’s wife caught sight of her and pulled her to the dance floor. Derrick sat nursing his drink until Gavin excused himself from his friends and prowled across the room. His wrists were still shackled, a length of plastic chain pulling across his body each time his arms moved. The leather pants clung to his thighs and hips above his thigh-high boots, the laces up the hips and on either side of the codpiece drawing Derrick’s gaze. He was ogling Gavin publicly, and didn’t seem to be able to stop himself.
The pants were gorgeous, but the shirt made Derrick’s fingers twitch. It hung open as though beckoning his hands to slip inside and glide over Gavin’s freckled skin, over the swallow tattoo that curved around his ribs on the left side.
“Having fun?” Gavin asked, flopping onto the sofa next to him, a glass of whiskey dangling from his own fingers.
“Yeah,” Derrick said with a smile, laying his arm over the back of the sofa, not quite around Gavin’s shoulders.
“You and Andi getting along?”
He didn’t think he imagined the cautious note in Gavin’s seemingly unconcerned question.
“Yeah, I think we are.” Derrick let his fingers ghost up and down the fabric between Gavin’s shoulder blades. “We both think you’re great, so we have that in common.”
“Good.” Gavin turned toward him, dropping his voice to a murmur. “Have I mentioned how gorgeous you look tonight?”
“Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you.” The high collar of Derrick’s shirt brushed his chin as he turned his head, looking Gavin up and down in a slow, pointed perusal.
“I really want to make out with you right now, but it would be rude. You know, seeing as how this isn’t that sort of party.”
The corners of Derrick’s mouth curled up in a small smile. “That is a dilemma.”
“Want to step out for some air?”
“Thought you’d never ask.”
He wasn’t sure how he managed to keep his hands off Gavin as they slipped out the door and down to the parking garage, but in the private nook between Derrick’s truck and the SUV parked beside it, the need to have his hands on Gavin broke free of his restraint. He swept the chain trailing between Gavin’s wrists up over Gavin’s head to keep it from getting between them, his other hand finally, finally touched the tempting expanse of torso so tantalizingly exposed.
Gavin groaned as Derrick’s mouth crashed down on his, hungry, demanding, deprived. He pressed Gavin against the truck, pinning the chain against the roof. Gavin fought against its limitations, seeking to touch Derrick’s hair and shoulders, before he gave up the struggle. He let his hands hang captive beside his head as Derrick’s tongue invaded his mouth. Derrick’s other hand crawled inside his shirt and up his ribs, his thumb brushing Gavin’s nipple.
Gavin tasted like whiskey and need. His upper lip was damp with sweat from the warm crush of people at the party. The scent of his cologne was seasoned with a hint of the clove cigarettes he’d ordered online back in September, so that he could smoke when the craving became too much to resist without feeling self-conscious about the way he smelled. His body moved restlessly, caught between Derrick and the truck, and his mouth ground against the insistent onslaught of Derrick’s, greedy and urgent.
“Fuck,” Derrick panted, trailing kisses along Gavin’s jaw down to his neck. His fingers caught Gavin’s nipple, pinching. The needy, mewling sound Gavin made prompted him to repeat the act. “Fuck.”
Gavin’s hands moved again, reaching for him. Derrick found he enjoyed Gavin’s desperation too much to let him have his way. He pulled the chain higher, forcing Gavin’s hands up, away from him. Gavin moaned, his body giving a discontented wriggle. A plaintive note crept into his voice. “Derrick, please….”
“Hm?” His teeth scraped Gavin’s neck, and his hand slipped deeper inside Gavin’s shirt. His blunted fingers dragged down Gavin’s back. “What is it you say to me all the time? You sound so sexy when you beg? I think I see what you mean.”
“Oh, God….” Gavin groaned as Derrick’s tongue dipped into the hollow above his collarbone, tasting salt. His head fell back against the trunk, his body sagging against the support of the chain suspending his wrists.
“You taste so damn good,” Derrick muttered against his skin, finally releasing the chain to reach down, rubbing his palm roughly along the bulging codpiece of Gavin’s leather pants, bumping over the uneven laces. The bare skin of Gavin’s chest drew him downward. He couldn’t wait until he got home to taste more of that skin, to see Gavin bare before him, to feel Gavin in his hand, his mouth. His lips passed over flat nipples, down to the lean, subtly defined muscles of his waist. The scent of cologne gave way to the oily, pungent smell of leather, filling Derrick’s senses as he sank to his knees. His fingers tugged at Gavin’s laces before stopped himself, panting.
“Did you bring condoms?”
“Huh?” Gavin’s voice sounded dazed, lost, distant for a moment. Then he muttered a curse and his hand came down, pushing Derrick away from his cock. “No. No pockets.”
“Shit.” Derrick pulled his hand away from Gavin’s codpiece, clenching his fist on his thighs against the urge to keep tugging. He hadn’t considered the potential need for condoms when he’d gotten dressed. It had never entered his mind that he’d be ready to go down on Gavin in a parking garage.
He leaned forward, resting his forehead against Gavin’s stomach as he tried to wrestle his impulses back under control. It shouldn’t be a big deal. He could just jerk Gavin off. But that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted the taste and texture of Gavin’s cock on his tongue. His senses kept taunting him with the scent of leather and Gavin, and his mind kept taunting him with statistics, telling him the risk of transmission via oral sex was minute. The only danger would be if he had a cut in his mouth.
A cold sore. Biting his tongue. Someplace where the dental floss dug in too hard. That was all it could take.
He dragged himself away from that dangerous precipice, from the moment of stark realization of just how much he’d be willing to risk.
“I’m sorry,” he heard Gavin mutter, and he felt Gavin’s hand fall on his head. Limp. Defeated. His voice was full of remorse. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t.” Derrick looked up sharply, meeting Gavin’s regret-filled eyes. He shoved away the resentment of frustrated denial. “Don’t be. This isn’t your fault.”
“Isn’t it?” Gavin’s mouth twisted.
“No.” Derrick pushed himself up off his knees, wrapping himself around Gavin. He demanded nothing with the embrace, holding Gavin, offering him comfort. His hands stroked Gavin’s back in soothing circles. “You didn’t have a choice. At least not much of one.”
“I could have stood firmer, not let Lukas get me drunk, meant it when I refused rather than give in.”
“You didn’t know.”
“I should have.”
He held Gavin silently, unable to come up with any convincing argument that would absolve him of his lapse into self-blame. Finally Gavin drew back with a sigh and a resigned smile. “We should get back to the party.”
“You sure you don’t want to go home? I could go upstairs and get Andi real quick.”
Gavin pursed his lips for a moment, considering. “No,” he said at last with a shake of his head. “Not until I’ve found my good mood again. Next time we drag each other out of there, I want us to remember we’re supposed to be having fun.”
Derrick grinned, giving Gavin a quick, hard kiss. “Sounds like a good plan. Let’s go, then.”
He caught Gavin by the chain between his wrists, tugging him toward the elevator heading up from the parking garage. Gavin followed gamely.
“Besides,” Gavin added as the elevator shut behind them. “I haven’t gotten you to dance yet.”