Release Date: 01/2009
Publisher: Lethe Press
Publisher Link: http://www.lethepressbooks.com/gay.htm#allen-whistling-in-the-dark
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Blurb: New York, 1919. His career as a concert pianist ended by a war injury, Sutton Albright returns to college, only to be expelled after an affair with a teacher. Unable to face his family, he heads to New York with no plans and little money—only a desire to call his life his own. Jack Bailey’s life has changed as well. After losing his parents in the influenza epidemic, he hopes to save their beloved novelty shop—now his—by advertising on the radio, barely more than a novelty, itself. Sutton lands work in Jack’s corner of the city and the two conclude they couldn’t be less suited for friendship. But when Sutton loses his job, Jack gives him a place to stay. Sutton returns to the piano to play for Jack and finds the intervening months have healed him. The program promises to rescue Jack’s business and Sutton’s career...but success brings its own risks for two men falling in love.
This excerpt takes place shortly after Jack invites Sutton to stay with him and they’ve become increasingly aware of the attraction between them.
He leaned around the door to see Sutton sitting on the bed, wrestling with his tie. “Need some help?”
Sutton dropped his hands to his lap. “I do it every time. The damned thing.”
Jack put down the coffee and studied the knot. “Maybe I should’ve kept my army knife.” He bent closer and the sweet, clean smell of shaving soap and coconut shampoo immediately distracted from the task at hand. He exhaled too audible a breath and, when Sutton glanced at him, hastily focused on the tie. “Damn, you did get it tangled. Who rescued you at home?”
“Mary, most often. But I usually took the scissors to it.”
“Mary?” He felt a sting of disappointment. “You’ve got a girl back in Topeka?”
The sting vanished. “Oh.” He tugged energetically at the knot and only succeeded in dislodging his towel. As it slipped, he started to grab for it and Sutton beat him to it. “Saving me from a fate worse than death,” he said with a grin.
“I imagine you’d survive it.” Sutton’s fingers warmed his skin. “You’re bruised,” he said.
“Yeah, well, you’re still bruised, yourself.”
“How do you know that?” Sutton’s smile said he had already guessed the answer. The smile hinted at other things, too—and worse were the fingers tracing a tender line over Jack’s ribs. A tingle raced in reaction along his spine and he ignored it. But he couldn’t do anything about the way his heart picked up speed.
“House rules, Mabel.”
That gray again, that fond, inviting gray, drawing him in. “You did say if I meant it.”
Sutton barely nodded. He seemed to hold his breath and Jack hardly breathed, either. They might well suffocate between the two of them if they didn’t find that kiss. He’d tasted it at a party such a while ago and, God help him, no kiss was ever going to live up to it.
Except maybe this one. At the first crush of Sutton’s mouth on his, he knew and he was pretty convinced Sutton did, too. It ignited some kind of insanity between them that had Sutton flat on the bed, Jack sprawled on top of him. They both breathed—finally—just enough to stay conscious from one kiss to the next. Sutton seemed starved for him, Sutton who’d barely known him any time at all. His own desire was as sharp-edged as it had been when they’d kissed at Theo’s party. He didn’t understand it. He and Sutton were not a bit alike. If they had anything in common, he’d yet to find out. All the same, they kissed and groped and encouraged in heated whispers—until an insistent knock at the door made itself heard. Jack lifted his head and blinked, struggling to remember where he was.
“It must be nine-thirty,” Sutton whispered.
“Hell. Why is he always so goddamned on time?” Leaving off now, with the taste of Sutton’s skin still on his lips, was almost more than he could do. Somehow he sat up, then felt around for his towel. As he got on quivering legs, Sutton seized his wrist.
“Wait. You can’t—”
Jack didn’t need to hear why he couldn’t. Sutton handed him a pair of drawers and he put them on, buttoning hurriedly while Sutton tied the strings for him. That did not resolve the problem. Trying in vain to suppress a smile, Sutton handed over a dressing gown. Jack slipped into it. “Better?”
“Maybe you should go, then.”
Sutton crossed his arms over his lap. “I think not.”
Laughing, Jack mussed his hair. “I’ll brave it alone.” He made a futile attempt to smooth down the front of the gown. “Hand me that magazine, will you?”
With the Saturday Evening Post preserving what decorum it could, Jack opened the door to let in a merry crowd.
Tamara Allen is giving away five copies of the print version to the first five people to email her at girluknow (at) ymail (dot) com