Release Date: 03/2009
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/currenttitles/tigersanddevils/tigersanddevilsbuynow.htm
Amazon Kindle: Tigers and Devils
Amazon: Tigers and Devils
Blurb: Football, friends, and film are the most important parts of Simon Murray's life, likely in that order. Despite being lonely, Simon is cautious about looking for more, and his best friends despair of him ever finding that special someone to share his life. Against his will, they drag him to a party, where Simon barges into a football conversation and ends up defending the honour of star forward Declan Tyler -- unaware that the athlete is present and listening. Like his entire family, Simon revels in living in Melbourne, Victoria, the home of Australian Rules football and mecca for serious fans. There, players are deemed gods and treated as such – until they do something to cause them to fall out of public favour. Declan is suffering a horrendous year of injuries, and the public is taking him to task for it, so Simon's support is a bright spot in his struggles. In that first awkward meeting, neither man has any idea they will change each other's lives forever. As Simon and Declan fumble toward building a relationship together, there is yet another obstacle in their way: keeping Declan's homosexuality a secret amidst the intrusion of well-meaning friends and an increasingly suspicious media. They realise that nothing remains hidden forever… and they know the situation will only become more complicated when Declan's private life is revealed. Declan will be forced to make some tough choices that may result in losing either the career he loves or the man he wants. And Simon has never been known to make things easy – for himself or for others.
The set up: Simon Murray is on his first ‘date’ with closeted, famous footballer, Declan Tyler.
“You’re not playing again this weekend, are you?” I asked to break the silence.
He looked stonily ahead. Maybe he wished I had kept quiet. “Nope.”
“They were saying on the news there was a possibility you would.”
“You keeping track of me?”
I couldn’t tell whether it was an accusation or a tease. His tone was neutral. “It’s hard not to,” I said evenly. “You watch the news, you get a commentary on all the big player injuries.”
He stopped walking and leant against the wooden railing, cupping his coffee in both of his hands. “Well, the media doesn’t know everything.”
I sipped at my latte. “Okay, so you don’t want to talk about it.”
He looked at me. “It’s not that.”
“You don’t trust me? You think I’m going to run and tell your story to the New Idea?”
There was a faint indication of his smile returning. “Nah, I don’t think you’d do that.”
“How do you know?” I was definitely pushing it, but I was intrigued. “I mean, you don’t know me at all. It’s a big risk, it’s hard enough dating a guy, but when you take into account how harder it is for you—”
“Like I said, I didn’t think you’d be like that.”
“It was just a feeling, okay? No, I don’t normally do this, but I just….” He trailed off. “Just… you’re one of the few people I’ve met lately who didn’t fall at my feet.
Sometimes it’s hard to know a person’s intentions.”
I was gobsmacked. “So it was my natural surliness that won you over?”
He chuckled. “I guess you could say that.”
“Wow. Normally it drives people away, not the other way round.” I took a huge gulp of coffee to reward myself.
“Maybe you want it to.” His tone remained neutral, and he continued to stare out at the waves whipped up by the constant wind.
It was a little too early for him to start psychoanalysing me. “Really.”
“Uh oh. You sound pissed.”
“You’re making a lot of assumptions about me.”
“Like what?” He sounded genuinely perplexed.
“That I look like a Greens supporter. That I’ll drink a latte.”
“Was I wrong?”
“You’re a bit of a type, that’s all.”
I was starting to get really pissed now. Why the hell was I here when I could be home waiting for Forensic Investigators to come on? “And what type is that?”
“You know. The arty wanker type.”
“Are you trying to be insulting?”
He straightened up. “No!”
“You want to analyse types?”
Declan grinned, a surprising move. “You’re going to say I’m a typical meathead jock?”
He wasn’t, and I had to admit that. “Not really. But you do have the natural arrogance.”
“That was the first thing I ever heard you say about me.” It was nostalgic, coming from him.
“You’re fucking weird.”
“So are you. That’s why I like you.”
I was glad it was dark, so he couldn’t see me flush. “So, you like arty wankers then?”
“I’m not sure as a whole, but I like you.”
Definitely flushing now. I took refuge in my bucket-o-coffee again.
“Doesn’t take compliments well,” Declan remarked. “Noted.”
I sighed. “Look, it’s just… oh, forget it.”
“Yeah, that always works when somebody says that. Spit it out.”
I was embarrassed, and I didn’t want to show it. “Why me? My friend Roger said you could date anybody you wanted—”
“And he’s your friend, saying things like that?”
“He was being honest. It’s true, you could date a gay supermodel—”
Declan had to lean against the railing to support himself as he burst out laughing.
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“You go date a gay supermodel if you think they’re so great!”
“I couldn’t get near a gay supermodel!”
“Maybe you’re not trying hard enough.”
Okay, he got me. We both roared with laughter, and I felt the return of that good feeling I had lost once we hit the city. His pinky finger stretched out and stroked the back of my hand. I stood there and let him do it. I wondered briefly if it made me slightly pathetic to find it extremely sexy, but I decided to go with it. I let my other hand wander over, and I linked my pinky with his. We stood there in silence, but both grinning, watching the fishing boats take out to the sea. I could see why this was one of his favourite places, and I figured that he probably came here a lot by himself. And it would have been night, when he felt it was his and his alone. So I was touched, rather than offended, that he’d brought me here.
Someone had to say something sometime. “So you really think I’m an arty wanker?”
He shook his head and laughed softly. “Simon, I’m surprised you’re not wearing a beret.”
“That’s what I wear on second dates.”
“I thought you said berets were for Sundays?”
I couldn’t believe he remembered that. “Sundays and second dates.”
I felt his pinky leave mine, and I was shocked at how empty mine felt without his curled around it. This was getting too fast, too quick.
“I look forward to seeing it, then.”
Confirmation. But it was a confirmation I wanted to hear.
Although I couldn’t resist a little dig. “Who said there would be a second date?”
He was mocking himself as much as me. “What, you could resist this?”
I was slightly worried that I couldn’t. But my brain didn’t want me to think about it too much for the moment. “When would you next be back in town?”
“Not for another fortnight.”
That was too far away. I was already feeling that flush of a new relationship, where you want to hole yourself up with that person, discovering everything about them both emotionally and physically, leaving your friends to send out search parties while you revel in your newfound bliss. “I guess there’s no possibility of you transferring to another team before then?”
“I wish.” There was a hint of bitterness in his voice. I remembered vaguely how he had been drafted out to the Devils as part of their first-year sweetener deal. He had done all the requisite PR, but everybody who followed footy on any level could tell he wasn’t happy about it.
“What, you don’t like Tassie?”
“I love Tassie. It’s a beautiful state. But it’s not my home.”
I tried to imagine leaving Melbourne, but I couldn’t. As Arnie had said before, who would want to? There were a multitude of reasons why it was the city with the largest pattern of migration in Australia, not the other way round. Sometimes you had to really search to find a person born and bred in Melbourne, because it seemed like every new person you met was a refugee from another state.
“You miss your family?”
“Yeah. Of course I do.”
“Do they know—” Coded speak once again.
“About me?” He paused, to toss his coffee cup into a nearby bin. It seemed he could have been a basketballer had his football career not taken off. He indicated my cup, silently asking me if I had finished with mine. I shook my head. “I think my mum does, but I’m not sure. Nothing’s ever been said, anyway. But that’s it. What about you?”
I thought of my family. And how they didn’t really talk about it, but seemed to accept it as best they could. “They know.”
“They okay about it?”
“In their own way. We’ll see what happens if I ever bring a guy over to meet them.”
“You haven’t ever done that?” He sounded surprised.
“Fuck, no! I don’t know who would be more freaked — them or me.”
“Why would you be freaked?”
I sipped at the dregs of my coffee. “Maybe I’m not as out and proud as I like to think I am.”
Declan stared down at his feet. “At least you’re out.”
I felt sorry for him. I wasn’t comfortable with the feeling. But the thing was, I could understand him. “Hey, I’m an arty wanker in an arty wanker industry. I think the only thing gayer would be working at a fashion magazine. It’s harder doing what you do.”
“I’m not looking for justification,” he mumbled.
“I know you’re not.” I shrugged, turned, and aimed for the bin. A gust of wind caught the coffee cup and it rattled onto the wooden slats of the jetty. Declan dived after it like he was on the field, scooping it up deftly and handballing it into the bin.
“Show off!” I laughed.
But he looked happier again.
“Let’s go for a drive,” he suggested.