Read Chiaroscuro Online

Authors: Jenna Jones

Chiaroscuro

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher.

Chiaroscuro

TOP SHELF

An imprint of Torquere Press Publishers

PO Box 2545

Round Rock, TX 78680

Copyright  2007 by Jenna Jones

Cover illustration by Anne Squires

Published with permission

ISBN: 1-934166-118-1, 978-1-934166-118-4

www.torquerepress.com

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law. For information address Torquere Press. Inc., PO Box 2545, Round Rock, TX 78680.

First Torquere Press Printing: August 2007

Printed in the USA

 

 

Chapter One

Weddings were no fun but Dune was, so Jamie brought Dune along as a date. Of course, for them "date" usually meant, "I'm picking you up and driving you home and whatever happens in between is your business," so before long Dune was off amusing himself in his usual way, and Jamie was bored. He wandered around the hotel and ended up in the dining room where supper was still being set up. He watched the caterer-bloke place the last decorations on the wedding cake. The bloke was cute--a long face with great cheekbones and a square chin, dark eyes and hair, taller than Jamie by several inches, broad shoulders, spectacular ass--so Jamie said, "Hullo. Great cake, that. Did you make it?"

"Every last crumb." The bloke glanced at him and smiled, and went back to arranging lilies on the cake top.

"I'm with the Cho-Gonzalez wedding," Jamie said. "Well, not with. A guest. My job is just to eat and dance and bring a present, and now that I've brought the present and it's not time to eat yet, I'm not sure what to do with myself, yeah?"

"You could get falling-down drunk." He gave Jamie a semi-serious look from under dark brows as he placed more flowers.

"I could, but I'm driving." He squinted at the cake, trying to place the subtle pattern traced on the sides in pale cream icing. "Oh! It's the bridges. I didn't even realize. Clever."

"Thank you. Since they met in San Francisco but they both live in Oakland, you see."

"Very clever. Joining the two. Just like a wedding." You're babbling, son, he thought, and sipped his champagne. He'd been too busy with work to chat anyone up for months--it had to be showing.

"Thanks," the caterer said again. "Hey, if you're bored, do you want to help me bring some stuff out here?"

"Sure." Jamie put down his champagne glass to follow the bloke from the dining room to the kitchens, past the busy chefs, the yelling waiters, the frazzled busboys, to the pantries.

"I've got, um--" the bloke said and then pulled Jamie into one of the pantries and kissed him, one hand on his neck and the other under Jamie's jacket, stroking his back through his dress shirt.

Unexpected. But very nice.

The bloke tasted cool, like wintergreen gum. He pushed Jamie against the wall and licked deeper into his mouth, hands pulling at Jamie's shirt. Jamie flailed in the direction of the light and shoved the door shut, plunging them into darkness--darkness that smelled like coffee and sugar and flour, or maybe it was the caterer who smelled that way. They kissed each other desperately. The bloke slipped his hands under Jamie's shirt and muttered, "Condom?" and Jamie was all set to take out the one in his wallet and let things go from there.

But before Jamie could do anything further someone was pounding on the pantry door: "Mr. Gallagher? Are you in here?"

"Yes," the bloke said, irritated. "I'll be right there," and Jamie said, "I'm sorry," and the bloke said, "I'll live, Sunshine, see you around," and left the pantry. Jamie left a few minutes later.

He hadn't expected to have an adventure at Jim and Carla's wedding. He had to find Dune and tell him about it.

Dune wasn't hard to spot: he was in the ballroom, standing with a group of people from the art department and sipping a glass of champagne. He was getting the reaction he often got from people when they saw him the first time: something between shock and amazement at how a mere mortal could be so handsome.

Dune Bellamy, Jamie sometimes thought, was meant to do nothing more complicated than be pretty: he was tall and slender, with black curly hair and dark brown eyes that could be soulful, playful or smoldering. His face, and as an artist Jamie felt he could say this definitively, was perfect. Perfect cheekbones, perfect lips, perfect chin, perfect forehead.

But instead of acting or modeling or even using his looks to con old ladies out of their retirement funds, Dune was a fact-checker for the Chronicle. He had a logical mind and blunt demeanor that struck Jamie as very American, and between that demeanor and his incredible face people were inspired to tell him anything, everything. And he listened.

Jamie joined him and grinned when Dune wrapped an arm around his neck and kissed his temple. "Hey. Where'd you go?"

"Just having a look around," he said. Members of his department were around and he'd rather not share his semi-conquest with them. "Saw the cake."

"Isn't that bad luck?" He smiled at Jamie and got him a glass of champagne from a passing waiter.

"Cheers," said Jamie and took a drink. "Dunno--is it? If a guest sees the cake before the rest of the party that means..."

"At least one person will always have their eyes closed in all the group shots," offered Aidan.

"The flower girl will lose her shoes before the night's over," chirped Marilee.

"The bride's ex-boyfriend will make an embarrassing drunken toast after dinner," said Daniel.

"Winner!" Jamie said, pointing at him.

Dune watched this ritual with amused confusion, and then shook his head and put down his champagne flute. "Let's dance," he said to Jamie and tugged him out onto the dance floor.

Jamie followed, laughing as Dune spun him into his arms. The DJ was playing a slow song, so Jamie put his arms around Dune's neck and they swayed together to the music.

"So where were you, really?" Dune asked, squeezing his arms around Jamie's waist.

"Talked with the bloke who made the wedding cake. And then snogged him."

Dune laughed. "Slut."

"Oi--weddings are meant for getting laid."

Dune looked around. "You didn't need to go to all this trouble just to get me into bed, Jamie--all you had to do was ask."

"Wanker." He nudged Dune with his hip. "Didn't get his name, though. Was rather preoccupied."

"It's just a small thing, a name. Was he cute, at least?"

"Very. Bit like you, only--hmm. Meatier."

"Meatier. I see."

"Oh, like you haven't been collecting phone numbers all night."

"I haven't," Dune said, sounding surprised himself. "The pickings have been slim. I think everybody who knows you thinks I'm your boyfriend."

"Does that mean you're going to stop being my emergency date?"

"God forbid--I get too much free food and booze for that." He dipped Jamie, who laughed and hugged him once he was upright again.

"I'll be sure and set them straight." He was going to tease Dune more, when he saw someone at the door to the ballroom--someone he hadn't expected to see.

Micah. 

The boy paused in the doorway, his slim body in a hideous pink-and-white striped shirt and mismatched tie and pants, his hair mussed like he'd been running his hands through it, spotlights reflecting off his oversized glasses. He looked awkward and uncertain--and perfect.

Dune was beautiful like a sculpture, like a work of art. Micah was beautiful like...a Micah.

Jamie swallowed hard and tried to refocus on what Dune was saying--something about phone numbers? "Er, what? Sorry?"

Dune looked down at him, puzzled. "Never mind, not important. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, of course."

Micah was moving through the other guests, smiling and nodding to people he knew, and stopped to talk to the bride and groom. Apologizing for being late, Jamie assumed, and the apology must have been accepted since Carla gave Micah a hug. But it was hard not to hug Micah, Jamie thought. He was an adorable puppy.

"But what I've really always wanted to do is direct," Dune said.

"Sorry?"

"Nothing, man. Is that the kid you keep going on about?"

Jamie started to deny it, and then sighed. "Yeah. That's him. Micah. Micah Ferguson, the boy wonder."

Dune watched Micah move about the room--looking for his table, Jamie assumed. "Cute. For a toddler."

"He's nineteen," Jamie said. "Twenty in August."

"Oh, that makes it much better. Are you going to ask him to dance?"

"No! I mean, he's not--he's never said--" He sighed.

"You're going to have to explain this to me better, Jamie, because I was under the impression the two of you had a little something going on."

Jamie sighed again. "We're friends. Aidan calls him my fan club, and that's pretty much all there is to it."

"So the man-crush is purely on your part."

"It is not a man-crush! I just--I like him."

"You'd like him horizontal and naked," Dune said and Jamie scowled at him.

"Shut up, you."

"You didn't think he'd come."

"He'd said he was going away with his family this week. They've got a cabin in Tahoe."

"Aw. He gave up his family vacation to come. That's very sweet."

Jamie leaned his head on Dune's shoulder, feeling ridiculous. A crush at his age was ridiculous; a crush on a kid as young as Micah was ridiculous; a crush on a kid like Micah that would never be returned was particularly ridiculous. Micah was six years younger than Jamie, hired by Virtuoso Games straight out of high school on the strength of simply animated but clever games he'd posted to his website. He could make code dance and sing in ways no one else could, but he was still just a kid.

Jamie had a list of all the things that were wrong with Micah, and he'd recite it to himself every day. He had no sense of personal style. He had a high-pitched, nervous giggle that would break out at the worst possible moments. He was snaggle-toothed and squinty and wore thick black plastic glasses with no style whatsoever. His hair stuck up in all directions. He bit his nails, for fuck's sake.

But he also held Jamie in a gratifying sort of awe, because he was English--just foreign enough to be exotic, not so foreign that he was scary--and had an art degree and was one of the few people at Virtuoso who didn't treat Micah like an annoying little brother. Micah wanted Jamie's opinion on everything, from the shape of a pixie wing to what movie he should see that weekend.

Jamie had kissed Micah at the office Christmas party, underneath a spring of mistletoe. Everyone watching had laughed and Micah had giggled his giggle, wiping his mouth with the side of his hand. Jamie had smiled too and told himself it meant nothing, it was just too much beer.

But he hadn't been able to stop thinking about Micah, about kissing him again. Behind those formidable glasses Micah had astonishing blue eyes and a cherubic face, a little bit of baby fat to his cheeks and a smile that was achingly sweet. Jamie liked his smile, liked his hands with their jagged fingernails, liked that most days even his socks didn't match.

So ridiculous. Jamie told himself this again and again. Incredibly ridiculous.

"I think you should ask him to dance," said Dune. "It'd let you know once and for all what he thinks about you."

"Or he'd say yes to be polite." He turned Dune a little so he could see Micah again. Micah had taken his seat and watched the dancers with a neutral expression, neither bored nor amused. Jamie caught his eye and was gratified at the size of Micah's smile.

Dune dipped him again, and when he brought Jamie upright Micah was following one of Carla's bridesmaids onto the dance floor. Jamie smirked as they started dancing--or the bridesmaid started dancing, and Micah started jumping and flailing his arms and pumping his hips.

One more thing to add to the list, Jamie thought. He can't dance.

***

Ben stopped at the Gallagher & Sons bakery to drop off his equipment and change his clothes. He felt edgy, restless--and it had everything to do, he knew, with the interrupted interlude in the pantry with the English guy. It was always risky to cruise at a job--but he got up too early to spend his nights hitting the clubs. That left customers at the bakery--which was nothing to laugh at, he'd met a lot of guys that way--and people at weddings.

Was it irony, he wondered, or just one of those things that a gay man with an annulment would spend so much time at weddings? And he always had fun at them, even if he never saw the party itself. But there were waiters, bartenders, wedding planners, guests to choose from--on one memorable occasion even the best man.

Ben took off his tunic as he jogged down the stairs to the office in the basement. "Ma, I'm back," he called on his way to the changing room. "The cake was a hit and I'm going home as soon as I change."

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