GENRE: Gay Mystery Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 31,789 words
Neil Stafford, a scene designer. He is still infatuated with his first lover. It's reason he wants to go to their college reunion -- to see if he can finally put his feelings for Zeke behind him, with the help of his best friend.
Zeke Hale, a lawyer. He's also a married, and very closeted, gay man although he clandestinely slept with as many guys as possible while in college, including Neil.
Kev Deering, a waiter. He's been in love with Neil almost since they first met two years ago. However, for reasons of his own, he hasn't told Neil he's bi, so Neil treats him as his very safe, straight best friend and nothing more.
Three men. One will be dead by the end of the reunion. One will be the primary suspect in the murder. One will do all he can to try to solve the murder.
Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.
Neil paced nervously, rubbing his hands on his hands on his thighs. "Why am I doing this?" he asked under his breath.
It was Thursday afternoon. He'd made it through tech rehearsals the previous week and the new show had opened to rave reviews. Now, he had the designs for the next production ready to show Ben, the director, but all he could think about was the reunion, which would begin in a little over twenty-four hours. He stopped at his drawing table, staring at what he'd come up with. This sucks.
He jumped when he felt someone touch his shoulder and turned to see Ben standing there.
"You've outdone yourself," Ben said. "This is exactly what I was looking for."
"You're sure?" Neil asked doubtfully. To him the designs looked mundane at best.
"Of course. I wouldn't have said so if I didn't mean it." Ben cocked his head in question. "You aren't satisfied with them?"
Neil lifted a shoulder. "I guess it's just the mood I'm in."
"Want to talk about it?"
"Not really." Neil immediately contradicted his words. "It's ... this damned reunion I'm going to this weekend."
"Why go if you don't want to?"
"That's a good question. I suppose because if I don't I'll regret not catching up with friends from college in person. Also, I promised someone I'd do it. He'll kill me if I back out."
Ben chuckled. "Take it from someone older who's been there, done that. Never make promises you don't want to keep."
"Well, he did sort of dare me. Okay, not quite true. He volunteered to come with me and he's a good friend so I couldn't say no."
"A new boyfriend? You do seem to collect them."
"No, just a friend. He's straight."
"Does he realize people might think he isn't when they see you together?"
Neil nodded, smiling. "According to him that's the idea."
Ben shot him a knowing look. "Someone's going to be at the reunion that you used to know and you want to show him you're doing fine without him."
"Damn, how did you get so smart?"
"Like I said, I'm older and debatably wiser, too. For your sake I hope your plan works. I don't want my favorite designer sinking into --" Ben paused dramatically, hand to his chest, "-- the depths of depression because this other guy doesn't notice you're there with someone else, or doesn't care if he does notice."
Neil laughed at his actions, if not his words. "I promise I won't. I guess I just want to close the book on that part of my life once and for all. I'm sure when I see him I'll wonder why the hell I cared in the first place."
"You're not a good liar, Neil," Ben replied with a bit of amusement. "Still, with luck that is what will happen. The fact you're willing to face your demon says you're ready to try."
Crossing his fingers, Neil said, "I think I am."
Now I have to convince myself that's the truth.
* * * *
"I'm going to regret this, I know I am," Kev told his reflection in the mirror late Friday afternoon as he tried to make his hair behave. "I should have kept my big mouth shut. On the other hand, if I had, Neil would be walking into the lion's den without any backup."
What do I do if the bastard ... Okay, stop thinking of him like that. He's just a man, and married to boot. There's nothing he can do when it comes to Neil without blowing his carefully built cover as a loving husband.
Kev knew in his mind it had to be the truth. The problem was, he didn't know how he'd handle it if Neil didn't accept that Zeke was unavailable. Or worse yet, if Zeke was up to his old tricks, having men on the side that no one knew about.
If he comes on to Neil I swear I'll punch him out right there in front of God and everyone. Yeah ... not. If I did it could blow our friendship big time. Best case scenario, Neil would think I was an ass for stepping in. Worst case? He might realize there was more to it than just my being a friend standing up for him.
"Damned if I do, damned if I don't," he muttered as he went into the living room to wait for Neil.