I’m inspired by possibilities. Potential. The promise of a glorious dawn shimmering at the edge of an ominous event horizon. From my perspective, nothing embodies that hope as perfectly children – any children, although I can only speak with authority about my own.
(Despite appearances, we did not raise a pack of vampire children. These pictures – taken three years apart – illustrate the fascination our cherry tree holds for two-year-olds.)
After my daughter was born, my previously dormant maternal instincts kicked in with a vengeance. When my twin sons were born three years later, these escalated to a near-fanatical avoidance of anything that even suggested a threat to them. (I haven’t been able to read a “children in peril” story since 1989.)
As my kids grew up, the things they inspired me to avoid turned into things they inspired me to seek out. For instance, we maintained residences in two different school districts for four years so my sons, who are both dancers, could attend the only arts magnet school in the area. As a result, at his senior capstone presentation, one of my sons was able to announce to an auditorium full of students, parents, and teachers:
“When I was a sophomore, I realized I was gay. That’s right. A ho-mo-sex-u-al. And you know what? Nobody cares. You could dress up like a rainbow for a week – in fact, I think Bette did that once – and nobody cares.”Sadly, if he had attended the high school in our more rural home district, I doubt his experience would have been the same. But the fact that he could say that with perfect ease, that more kids, gay or straight, can navigate the frightening waters of adolescence with less worry about the censure of their peers or the judgment of disapproving adults, is truly an inspiration.
As more states allow marriage equality, my hopes for a true HEA for all three of my kids – my two gay sons and my straight daughter – increase. In a recent conversation with my elder (by eight minutes) son, I told him that I’d purposely avoided contact with my fundamentalist relatives so that he and his brother wouldn’t be subjected to their anti-gay attitudes. His response?
“Bring it. I’m ready for them.”
I’m so inspired by his confidence, his comfort in his own skin.
Makes me want to dress up like a rainbow for a week.
About E.J. Russell: E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer and business intelligence consultant. She returned to her childhood love of writing fiction after her twin sons learned to drive and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class.
Her daily commute now consists of walking from one side of her office to the other — from left-brain day job to right-brain author cave — where she’s perfected the fine art of typing with a cat draped across her wrists and a dog attached to her hip. Her stories include gay and straight characters because her life includes gay and straight characters (as does everyone’s).
Twitter: @EJ_Russell http://twitter.com/ej_russell
Email: ejr (at) ejrussell.com
E.J. Russell is offering a copy of Northern Light to one commenter on this blog. You can comment on LJ or DW if you have an account (I will send a PM to the winner), if you don't have an account, please leave a comment on DW with a contact email.
Northern Light (Entangled Ever After) by E. J. Russell
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 95 pages
Release Date: September 2013
Publisher: Entangled: Ever After (September 30, 2013)
Amazon Kindle: Northern Light (Entangled Ever After)
Haunted by more than the past…
Nothing gives art fraud investigator Luke Morganstern a bigger rush than busting forgers, the low-life criminals who dare victimize true artists. But when his latest job sends him to a remote cabin in the Oregon Coast Range, he’s stunned to discover the alleged forger is his former lover, Stefan Cobbe, the most gifted painter Luke has ever known.
Stefan, left homeless and destitute after the death of his wealthy partner, doesn’t exactly deny the forgery—he claims he doesn’t remember, an excuse Luke can’t accept.
But Luke’s elderly client suggests Stefan may be telling the truth and presents another possibility—a dark presence in the woods, a supernatural fury simmering for decades. Luke must face down his fear of the uncanny—and admit his feelings for Stefan—if either of them is to survive.
Stefan peered out the cabin window, hands balled in the pockets of his sweatshirt, willing Thomas to emerge from the studio. The man had been inside there for twenty minutes, each second ticked off by the camelback clock on the sideboard and the skitter of Stefan’s nerves.
The studio door opened and Stefan leaned forward, balancing on the balls of his bare feet, his fingernails jabbing his palms. Please. God, please. But when Thomas stepped out into the drizzle and frowned at the sky, brushing at the shoulders of his black duster, he was empty-handed. Stefan sank onto his heels, shoulders slumped, and let his forehead fall against the chilly windowpane with a thump.
He slid his left hand out of his pocket and uncurled it. In the gray light, a splotch of cobalt winked at him from the crease at the base of his ring finger, a sly flicker hinting he’d done more last night than simply pass out. Stupid of him to believe a spot of paint.
At the first slap of Thomas’s shoes on the porch, Stefan opened the door, tugging it past the warped spot on the floor, then stood aside like an unkempt butler.
Thomas took one look at him and laughed. “Good morning, Merry Sunshine. A bit hung over, are we?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” Stefan didn’t remember drinking, although a bender might explain why his eyes burned and his skull felt too small to contain his brain. Headache didn’t begin to describe it.
Thomas sailed past Stefan, trailing a too-heavy cloud of L’Homme. The scent didn’t blend well with the smoke from the wood stove or the inescapable smell of paint solvent clinging to Stefan’s clothing. Thomas’s scarf, fringed silk in delicate lemon, mocked his pale blond hair, turning it drab and colorless, although it complemented the pastel pink of his bald spot.
Stefan dropped his gaze to the floor and contemplated his bare toes while contempt warred with gratitude in his chest. If it weren’t for his chance encounter with Thomas, who’d remembered him from one of Marius’s gallery galas, Stefan would still be living in his dead car in the parking lot behind Karla’s KrabKorner, waiting for those Vegas goons to extract from his flesh what they couldn’t get from his wallet. Thomas’s unexpected offer of patronage, complete with studio, room, board, and unlimited art supplies, had seemed like a gift from the art gods.
But with each visit to the cabin, Thomas borrowed one more trick, one more affectation, from Marius. Marius’s cologne.Marius’s coat. Marius’s scarf color, for God’s sake. As if he were auditioning for the part of Marius now that Marius was dead and couldn’t fill the role himself.
“Hair of the dog?” Thomas held up the bottle of Scotch from the sideboard.
Stefan’s stomach rebelled at the suggestion. “God, no.”
“Groceries are on the porch. Here’s your mail.” Thomas pulled a handful of envelopes out of the inner pocket of his coat and tossed them onto the kitchen island counter. “I stowed the art supplies in the studio. Good thing I made it up here today. You were getting low.”
Stefan’s breath caught. Supplies. He’d used supplies. “Did you…was there…”Ask him, you cowardly piece of shit.“Did you like…it?”
“The new painting? Yes, indeed.” Thomas’s round face creased in a smile.
Stefan took his first deep breath of the day. The studio held a painting. He clenched his left fist around the tiny blot of blue that hadn’t lied after all. “I wasn’t sure if anything—” He coughed to cover his near-confession. “I mean, if it was ready. You didn’t bring it out.”
“It’s dry. Ready to go. But I didn’t want to carry it outside in the rain. I’ve got some waterproof wraps in the Caddy. I’ll pull around and collect it before I go.” Thomas patted Stefan’s shoulder and Stefan forced himself not to pull away. “Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll sell something soon.”
Stefan didn’t flinch at the condescension in Thomas’s tone. Hell, he’d jettisoned his pride on his first visit to a pawn shop. “I’ll pay you back first thing. For the supplies, the food, the rent. Everything.”
“I’m sure we’ll work something out.” Thomas chuckled and gave Stefan’s shoulder another squeeze. “As they say, I know where you live.” He pulled on a pair of leather driving gloves. Marius’s brand.“Could you manage two more by the end of next week?”
Stefan’s belly roiled at the idea of entering the studio. He squeezed his fist tighter, clutching the stray dot of paint like a talisman. “I…don’t know. I’ll try.”
“Excellent. I have big, big plans for November.” Thomas waggled his nearly-invisible eyebrows and bustled out. Ten minutes later, his black Cadillac purred past the cabin on the way down the hill.
Shivering in the damp chill of the morning, the wooden slats of the porch rough against his feet,Stefan asked himself what he would do if Thomas took that last step into Marius’s empty shoes and added Marius’s lover to his list of must-have accessories. He clamped his lips shut against a surge of nausea. Man up, Stefan. You’ll do what you must. You owe him whatever he cares to ask for. Because thanks to Thomas, Stefan was finally painting again.
Even if he couldn’t remember a single brushstroke.
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