Release Date: Mar 29, 2009
Publisher: Amber Allure
Publisher Link: http://www.amberquill.com/AmberAllure/ObsoleteMan.html
Blurb: James Duran no longer fits in the world. At forty-five years old, his wife has left him, and his job as a pre-press technician was not just downsized, it was completely eliminated. With no reason to stay in the world, James makes plans to jump in front of the train that took him to work every day for twenty-five years. But before he does, he’s finally going to introduce himself to the stranger who takes the same train. The stranger who has gorgeous eyes and a wonderful smile. A stranger who can make the world fit James Duran again...
James positioned himself in the seat that the man always chose when he entered the train car. As soon as he saw James, he stopped short with eyes slightly widened.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” James smiled. “I think I took your seat.”
“No, no. It’s fine. My name isn’t on it.”
James turned in his seat, as if to check. “It might be. What’s your name?”
“Nope, no Chad Pennington. But I’ll move anyway.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Chad protested.
“I don’t mind.” James slid to the empty seat to the left. “I’ve seen you on here before.”
“You mean, you’ve seen me every morning?” Chad asked lightly as he sat down. The train lurched to life, the engines making a familiar, high-pitched whine.
“That is what I meant. I wanted to introduce myself sooner, but you’ve always seemed so busy.”
James nodded at the folded New York Times. “Reading.”
“Actually, I only pretend to read this.”
James arched his brow. “Why would you pretend to read it? Are you trying to impress somebody?”
“I’m trying to hide the fact that I read this.” Chad lifted the flap of the newspaper, revealing a startlingly explicit yet whimsical book cover. A dark-haired man held another man in the clinch, while fires raged behind them. It looked like a gay version of Gone With the Wind. White text on the front informed James that the book was actually titled Gone to the Movies.
“What is that? Gay porn?”
Chad laughed. “No, it’s not.”
“What is it?”
“That’s usually how people justify porn.”
“True, but this is actual art. Well, parody. They’re all homoerotic parodies of movie posters.”
“I don’t hear that word much in everyday conversation.”
“People don’t use it enough. But I could avoid using it again, if you’d like.”
James shook his head. “No, I don’t mind it. You look at homoerotic pictures every morning on the way to work?”
“Not every morning. Sometimes I’m looking at actual gay porn.”
James laughed. The sound startled him. It was rusty and unrecognizable, and it hurt his throat a little bit. But he didn’t mind. In fact, he wouldn’t mind another one.
“I take it you don’t read gay porn on the morning train?” Chad asked.
“No, but…” James checked his watch. Seven-thirty-one. In less than twenty-four hours, this conversation wouldn’t matter. Connie’s anger wouldn’t matter. The endless psychological warfare that had characterized every moment of every day wouldn’t matter. The fact that he had no marketable skills and no future didn’t matter. He already felt palpable relief, and he was still almost twenty-four hours away from that release. “I don’t really need to read it. I have my own porn reel playing every morning.”
“Nothing unusual about that. I mean, don’t most guys have porn reels playing in their minds?”
“That’s what I’ve heard. I’d be interested in finding out how many of those mental porn reels star you, though.”
Chad blinked, like he didn’t quite know what to do about that. The day before—any day before this—James would have felt the cold-hot rush of humiliation, he would have mumbled an awkward apology, he would have moved to the other end of the car, then gotten off the train and caught a taxi to somewhere else. Maybe the other side of the state. But none of this would matter in a little less than twenty-four hours.
“I would say at least a third of the men who cross my path.”
James released his breath. “A third? Are you being modest?”
“I try. It’s part of my charm.”
“And to think, I wasn’t even aware of your charming modesty when I cast you in the movie.”
“You’re not really aware of a number things about me. How do you know you’ve got the details right?”
“I don’t. Which is why I’m inviting you to join me at the Marriott.”
James expected another stunned silence. He wasn’t expecting an easy smile. An easy smile that made his chest twinge. “This is a little sudden, isn’t it? Usually strange men on trains ask me to dinner first.”
“I don’t have time for a dinner, unfortunately.”
“I’m leaving town tonight.”
“For good. I wouldn’t have the courage to even talk to you otherwise.”
“Where are you going?”
Admitting he planned to go on to his final reward probably would not be a great seduction technique. “Europe. Italy, to be precise.”
“And the last thing you’re doing before leaving the States is cruise for guys on the train?”
“I’m not cruising for guys. I mean, if you tell me to fuck off, I won’t go to the next car down and find a new guy there.”
“No. I’m only interested in you.”
“I think I’m flattered.”
“The Marriott is only about a block from the Powell stop.”
Chad nodded. “I know where it is. I do have to go to work, though.”
James nodded. He had been prepared for that response. He honestly thought it would be the very first thing out of Chad’s mouth. “I’ve seen you every morning without fail. As near as I can tell, you never take a day off from work. You’re never late. You’re as reliable as I am…was.”
“What are you saying?”
“Take the morning off.”
“You only want the morning?”
“It’s all I’m going to ask for,” James corrected. “I mean, I can’t very well demand you give your whole day to a total stranger.”
“Just the morning.”
Chad regarded him, and James could almost see the wheels spinning behind his eyes. The fact that Chad was even considering it was enough to make him happy—it was more than he had really hoped for. He had already received more from Chad than he had really hoped for.