Well, I’m behind… who is surprised? I was supposed to put this part two up yesterday. But (insert credible excuse here) so I’m racing to try to catch up. The $25 prize is still up for grabs. If you offered an excerpt to be considered for my five-minutes-in-heaven reading (9/14, Seattle, happy hour following GRNW), then your name is in the bucket once. But now vote, and you enter again. If you didn’t offer a selection, you can still enter by voting! There are seven selections, please vote twice. The entries are here, I’ve linked here from facebook, twitter, and goodreads. You can vote at any one of the sites (whatevers easiest for you). Voting is open for one week, through 8/7/13. on 8/8, I’ll announce a winner and which excerpt I’ll read.
#1 (Lou’s own selection) On the Hilltop Before the Wedding, in Finding Jackie 823 words)
THE Hawaiian sky stretched wide, exactly the hue of Delsyn’s Blue #3, which would make it all that much easier for Sonny James to eventually weave a tapestry commemorating the day of his marriage to Luki Vasquez. The lava at Sonny’s feet seemed peculiarly lumpy; he studied its color as he stepped across the nearly flat-topped hill where they would be wed. Splashes of dark red lay almost hidden in the surface. From a distance, one would never guess they were there. If Sonny had encountered that coloring a year ago, he would have woven it with judicious touches of Sonny’s Red, a dye that had long been his trademark. But once he’d been forced to stand and watch his nephew’s precious, red blood drip into white porcelain, Sonny’s Red was dead and gone, and even scarlet and carmine no longer held a prominent place in his art.
“No,” he said, forcing the horrors from his mind. “Happier things today.” He half turned just as Luki—his lover, fiancé, groom, and at the moment the most breathtaking part of the scenery—stepped near. Thinking “groom” made Sonny smile, and when Luki held out his big, capable hand, Sonny recognized the invitation and held out his own, letting Luki twine their fingers together.
“Hey, sweetie,” Luki said, his scratchy voice nevertheless deep and musical.
“Hey,” Sonny answered, feeling suddenly shy under Luki’s gaze—an inexplicable reaction, though not unusual. Their eyes met as they leaned toward each other for a kiss, and even though the sight was far from new, Luki’s pale blue irises, bright eyes surrounded with black lashes and dark skin, startled Sonny, and he caught his breath in surprise. Sometimes those eyes were like ice. Used to be that way more often than not, but lately the irises were nearly always dark-centered, wide open with love when they looked at Sonny, and the corners of Luki’s eyes often crinkled with a smile that didn’t quite reach his lips. He smiled like that now, in that very moment on the lava hill, and his eyes danced, reflecting blue sky, blue ocean, sunlight. The grooms shared their kiss, chaste but full of promise. Then, Luki pulled Sonny’s hand to his lips and kissed the finger that bore the fire opal engagement ring. Sonny’s mouth went dry.
“Kaholo’s on his way up the mountain,” Luki reported. “We’ll be saying our vows in just minutes, baby.” His voice held an edge of excitement that Sonny would have bottled if he could. Miracles like that thrill in Luki’s words, like that flush over his dusky skin, were not things that happened every day—even now, even after Luki had learned how to love. Sonny breathed deep in an effort to slow his thoughts enough to savor that and everything beautiful about the day. And Sonny was honest enough, and artist enough, to admit that he was part of the beauty—he and Luki both.
Both men wore white. Luki’s suit fit loosely, almost blousy, giving him plenty of room for his muscled chest and shoulders, yet at the same time it had been tailored so perfectly that, while it only showed off some of Luki’s curves and planes, it eloquently promised the rest. He wore a tie of barely blue silk, woven by Sonny with a subtle, obscured pattern of lauburu—the Basque Cross. They’d gotten legally married at home in Washington State, but they were both thinking of this Hawaiian ceremony as their real wedding. Luki had asked for that, in honor of his Hawaiian ancestors. But Sonny had thought it proper to have something to honor Luki’s Basque heritage too, and when he found the lauburu, a simple, ancient, pagan symbol of prosperity, he took some joy in weaving it into the tie.
Sonny wore white silk, an Italian cut customized for his height and slightly broader shoulders, following closely the slim lines of his elegant frame. He wore a white ribbon shirt, with the remaining three sacred colors in the ribbons—narrow strips of a blue so deep it was almost black, golden yellow, and dark red. They crossed his chest and climbed his shoulders, then hung from his shoulder blades in the back, hidden now under his jacket. The two silk-covered buttons of Sonny’s light-weight, summer wool jacket had been set with diamonds at the center. A silk scarf woven—like the ribbons on his shirt—of the four sacred colors from his tribal heritage, fluttered at his chest in the slight breeze. Sonny had created both Luki’s tie and his own scarf, and they carried meaning—almost as much as the rings they would exchange.
Reality check, Sonny thought. Nothing meant nearly as much to him as Luki himself, as he was just then, awaiting their wedding—his eyes excited, his smile nervous, his touch warm on Sonny’s hand.
#2 The Wedding Ceremony suggested by Traci from Finding Jackie 597 Words
First, Kaholo led them through some traditional vows. To have and to hold, to love and to cherish, and so forth. Luki stopped himself from thinking, yada, yada.
Then it was Luki’s turn to wing it. He’d rehearsed only a little and never really planned the words. He was surprised how easy they came, how good they felt. “Sonny, I promise to love you, never to try to change you, to trust you with my heart and with everything I have, and always to remember how precious, how fine, how beautiful you are to me. And I’ll keep you safe, Sonny. I’ll always keep you safe.”
Panic entered the picture when it came time for Sonny to respond—which he couldn’t seem to do, really. “I… I… Luki, I… oh.” Tears started, and Luki had no idea what to do until Josh nudged him and mouthed the word handkerchief.
“Oh!” Luki said. “Yeah. Here, baby.” He held the snowy-white square out as if he was going to wipe his groom’s nose, but Sonny snatched it away, swiped it down his face, and then grabbed hold of Luki’s shoulders, bending slightly to bury his face in Luki’s neck. Luki reached up and put his two big hands over Sonny’s slender ones—Sonny’s trembling hands that seemed so vulnerable. “Shh, sweetie. It’s okay. You don’t have to say anyth—”
“Shut up, Luki, of course I have to say something.”
Those words left Luki slack-jawed again, but the need to decide what to say or do was swept away from him as Sonny stood away once more, grabbing both of Luki’s hands and holding them to his chest, where the many-colored scarf buffeted against them in the breeze, tickling. Luki met his lover’s dark, dark eyes, and found them smoldering despite the rim of moisture, smoldering with such intense sincerity or need that Luki wondered absently if a spark would ignite them like oil on water.
“Yes, Luki. I have to say things. I have to tell you that I… will love you and no other, body and soul… will honor your strength and cherish it. And, Luki, I promise to give you what I am. Every day I want to show you beauty—the beauty I see in the world. That vision is the best I have to give, the best of what I am. And….” His voice trailed to a whisper. “Thank you, Luki, for loving me so much.”
“The rings,” Kaholo said, somehow managing to put an audial eye roll in the words. Josh passed one to Luki, and Jackie passed one to Sonny, and chuckling with their guests they pushed them past knuckles that seemed to have recently grown too large.
“Kiss, then,” Kaholo ordered, and pronounced them a pair of husbands.
Everyone had survived. The boys began to help the guests line up for congratulations. Neither of the men had wanted a receiving line, but Kaholo and Leilani insisted. Both of the men looked a little shell-shocked, but a worried look suddenly flashed across Luki’s face. “Wait!
All eyes turned Luki’s way as he dropped Sonny’s hand and reached into his vest pocket. “I forgot something important. Sonny, this is a wedding present. I know it isn’t all glamorous or anything, but… I hope you’re happy with it.” He held out a hand to Kaholo, a hand holding a half-smoked pack of cigarettes and his dad’s USS Vincent/Dennis the Menace vintage lighter. “Uncle, please take these. I’m quitting. As of right now, I don’t smoke.”
#3 from Bluesimplicity First Meeting from Loving Luki Vasquez 557 words
BRIGHT clothes, sunburns. Summer had arrived, and Port Clifton was awash in tourists. Since Juan de Fuca Boulevard constituted most of the town, they had nowhere else to go. They chattered and milled about, and Sonny Bly James wasn‟t in the mood for chatter or milling because he was worried about his nephew, Delsyn, who always stayed gone for days, but who should have come home by now. Sonny quickened his long-legged strides and slid through the crush, trying to disturb the air as little as possible on the way to his truck.
Then he saw a man.
Which in itself wasn‟t unusual, but this man, an islander, maybe Hawaiian, by the look of him, lounged cool and beautiful in loose summer whites, half-sitting on the fender of an ice-blue Mercedes, a strip of sand beach and the blue straits for a backdrop. Dark chestnut curls shining; straight, white teeth softly teasing a lush, plum-red bottom lip. His eyes, startling pale blue against brown skin, roved all over Sonny; the islander made no effort to pretend otherwise, and besides, Sonny could feel them. Their touch trickled over him like ice water, exciting every nerve he had, even those he‟d never heard from before.
Which scared Sonny, a recluse by choice—and, he knew, because he‟d always managed to be socially… well, clumsy. So, he turned to the weapon that had been his first line of defense since adolescence, when all the reservation had noticed that their star young grass dancer didn‟t mind being gay: a smart mouth.
“What are you looking at?”
Even though the islander had responded by looking away, Sonny knew he hadn‟t—couldn‟t have—intimidated him. The stranger might have been a few inches shorter than him, but judging by his physique, and despite his laid-back manner, Sonny guessed the man could have dropped him with a cold look and a slap. It would have been less of a blow if he had. Instead, he freed his lower lip from his teeth and spoke.
“I beg your pardon.”
Sonny wanted to let a whole raft of words spill out, starting with “I didn‟t mean it,” and ending with “so kiss me, now.” But the man‟s attention had turned away. A baby in a stroller dropped a floppy brown bear at his feet. The young mother looked frazzled, at her wit‟s end, carrying another child and trying to keep a third from making a dash down the boulevard. The islander squatted down—a graceful move—and picked up the bear. Right before Sonny‟s eyes, his icy exterior melted, and though he didn‟t smile and couldn‟t pass for cheerful, he somehow seemed kind. He handed the stuffed creature back to the baby, who seemed to like him. She expressed her gratitude by spouting a number of syllables that all sounded a lot like “da.”
Sonny, angry with himself for blowing his chance to meet this chill but beautiful stranger—who might be trying to hide a kind heart—pretended he hadn‟t seen. He turned his faux-stoic shoulder and walked away. A little shaky, perhaps; already sorry. Three strides and he heard a voice, unexpectedly scratchy, even hoarse.
The man took a deep, lovely breath, flashed his cold-fire eyes at Sonny, and said, “I have coffee most mornings at Margie‟s. In case you‟re interested.”
#4 Suggested by Juliana The Tucking-in Scene at the Hotel from Loving Luki Vasquez 418 words
Sonny looked spent. Not necessarily in a bad way, but Luki hoped he hadn‟t overtaxed him, what with his injury and all. He moved up next to him, handed him the water glass, and propped him up to drink from it. Not at all sure what to make of his own feelings, Luki nevertheless curled up around Sonny, cradled his head and kissed the top of it.
Sonny said, “You?”
“No. Another time. This was for you, Sonny.”
Sonny pulled his head away to look at him. After a time he whispered, half asleep, “You‟re smiling.”
“I guess I am. I‟ll probably have to rectify that.”
“Punctures the tough-guy image.”
“Almost irreparably. Are you hurting, now that you‟re awake and not being driven into a sexual frenzy? Do you want some more pain meds?”
Sonny hesitated. “Yeah, I think so.”
Luki extracted himself from his cozy situation reluctantly, then resisted the instinct to rush after
Sonny, who had rolled off the bed and set off for the bathroom.
Damn, Sonny, what if you fall! Damn, Luki, give it a rest!
Sonny made it back in one piece and, breathing again, Luki brought him his pill and plumped his pillows and helped him lay down without straining his injured muscle and pulled the blanket up and….
“What are you doing, Luki?”
“I‟m tucking you in.”
“Tucking me in?”
“Yes.” He hoped he was managing a cold and intimidating expression. “You have some sort of problem with that?”
Sonny laughed hard enough that Luki worried about his stitches—what the hell is going on with me—and kept laughing when Luki turned the lights out and stepped to the balcony to smoke, flopping on a cushioned wicker chair with one leg draped loosely over the arm.
Sonny fell silent, and a moment later his drowsy advice floated out to the balcony. “You should quit.”
“News,” Luki said. He found the night air, the lights on the water, the faint noises of traffic a lot more satisfying than would usually have been the case. He suspected he was still smiling, even though it wasn‟t stretching his scar.
Sonny‟s low, buttery voice came again, softly, from the edge of sleep. “Luki?”
“Uh… thank you?”
Luki smiled some more, which should have alarmed him but didn‟t. “You‟re welcome, sweetie,” he said. “You‟re more than welcome.”
#5 Suggested by Kat The Ambulance Ride (Neck Collar) Loving Luki Vasquez 473 words
The EMT had already checked Luki over, catalogued cuts and bruises and—mostly on his hands—relayed information about body temperature, pulse, and respiration to the ER. He moved on, and Luki tried to catch glimpses of Sonny as the EMT moved up and down the narrow aisle between them. He saw bloody patches on his clothes, gashes on his arms, one place on his left shoulder where both shirt and skin had been peeled away. A cotton pad had been laid under his back, and blood oozed into it, blooming along the edge near Luki.
Just when Luki felt despair looming over him, Sonny inhaled sharply, cleared his throat.
“Mr. James,” the EMT said. “Glad to see you‟re with us.”
Sonny said nothing. His breathing sounded ragged.
The EMT moved into Sonny‟s line of sight, which meant Luki could see Sonny too. Alive. Awake. Relief struck so fast and hard it hurt. Luki thought that, though he‟d survived everything else, this just might stop his heart.
“Mr. James, can you hear me? Do you know where you are?”
Which is when Luki realized that his own hearing had returned. Though a bit muffled, it was acute enough to hear Sonny rasp his answers.
“Can hear. I‟m in hell. Delsyn? Luki?”
“You know damn well you‟re not in hell, Mr. James.”
“Okay, Sonny. Delsyn was airlifted about three minutes before the blast; they got away clean and will be at Nebraska Hospital in about ten, I‟d say—”
“Yeah, that turned out well. Mr. Vasquez‟s folks had the stuff in spades. Not quite sure how they got it, but I imagine that little breach of legal etiquette will be overlooked in light of the outcome. He‟s getting factor and red cells, and they‟ll transfuse him as soon as they arrive at the hospital. I can call and see if I can get an update, if you like, as soon as we clear this mockery of a road and reach the highway.”
“He‟s right here, to your left—that‟s the side that probably hurts the most—and he won‟t stop staring at you. Not sure what that‟s about….”
It looked like an effort, but Sonny turned his head. Luki crinkled his brow, thinking they should have had a neck collar on him. What’s wrong with these people? But when Sonny locked his soft brown eyes on him, Luki forgot about his complaints. It felt like forever that they stared at each other. To him, it seemed they floated in a vacuum; nothing else existed but his lover and the small part of him that was good enough to let Sonny love him back. Finally, the ride smoothed out as the aid van pulled onto the highway, and the two of them spoke at once.
“What,” they said, “are you looking at?”
#6 The Blood Bowl Loving Luki Vasquez suggested by Cynthia 712 words
The ATF experts confirmed that, indeed, there were explosives in the van. They confirmed that the hardwired device did appear to be a detonator. They were a little surprised, and alarmed, at the ingenuity Royce had used in rigging the heat-sensitive switch. Maybe it wasn‟t a first, but this bunch hadn‟t seen that twist before.
“We don‟t have any way to be sure about the remote detonator because we could set it off while trying to find the closed signal. Cell phone controlled detonators are pretty common, easily done, and it seems he‟s got the know-how, so I think we‟d best assume it‟s real. As far as that heat-activated switch, we‟ve got a solution.”
Janine helped him pull a cut-off, dark green, insulated ATF vest over his head, which covered the face of the lens but missed the various wires. “There,” she said, in a voice like everybody‟s kid sister. “Now we‟re all a notch safer and you‟re more stylish into the bargain.”
Sonny actually smiled at that, which he found unbelievable. But it did feel good, like it untied one of the numerous knots in his belly.
“Hey, Sonny,” Duff said. “We‟ve got some of Luki‟s people here—employees, we call them. We‟re kind of snooty so we don‟t call them agents even though they‟re damn good ones. And our folks are calling in from Kaholo‟s. I‟m supposed to be the boss, so I need to hear everything. I‟m going to leave Janine here for company. She likes to gossip, so just tell her to button up if she‟s bothering you. And, Sonny, calm is the word. If it helps, I‟ve done this job for twenty-two years, done dozens of situations, and I can tell you the odds are on our side.”
Sonny nodded as the fiftyish man walked away. It surprised him how much calmer he did feel, just having the agents there. Have faith. Luki was right of course. There would be a way out, even if it hadn‟t come into view. He looked into the windows at Delsyn‟s blood. Still dripping. Still a steady rhythm. He reminded himself that, though it seemed a lifetime, not much time had passed. Del would be alright as long as they could get him out of that van alive.
He saw a black speck in the left hand blood bowl. It moved.
(Passage of time)
SONNY could see nothing but the black fly in the bowl of blood. It had subverted every cell capable of forming thoughts. It didn‟t move, and Sonny wondered if flies drown. But, still as it was, he soon forgot that it was a fly at all. Just a dot of black on a field of red. Red that didn‟t quite match Sonny‟s red, the dye no one could copy, but almost. Whoever made this red, he thought, should be proud. He wanted that red, wanted to weave it through weft of the same hue….
“Mr. James… Mr. James!”
For a split instant, Sonny wondered why the young woman was bothering him, couldn‟t she see he was working? He lifted his eyes from the porcelain bowl in order to scold her. On the way to do that he saw Delsyn, then the van, then remembered the monstrous device strapped to his belly, and he came back.
He breathed a deep and quivering sigh, licked dry lips, and focused on Janine. “Sorry,” he croaked.
“Mr. James, did you hear the explosion?”
He realized that he had, though he‟d shut it away.
The sergeant, Duff, trotted toward them. “Are you holding up okay, Sonny?”
“Yeah, that‟s what I want to talk about. We got a radio call from the agents who went upstream, following the trail Vasquez left, presumably for us. An old powerhouse on the river is what blew.” He slicked his hair back, as if stalling. As if he didn‟t want to say more. “It‟s pretty clear that the bomber was in there. Since the remote detonator signal, apparently, did not come, we‟re operating on the assumption that the bomber went down with the building.
“We don‟t know. We haven‟t found him, but he‟s always been crafty. And strong. There‟s hope.”
“He told me to have faith. In him. In chances.”
#7 First Reunion Love Scene Beginning Delsyn’s Blues (Lou’s own selection) 607 words
An hour later, Luki stepped outside to smoke, no jacket against the cold, dry wind, nothing between his eyes and the stars. Dry, cold, and clear—a rare March night here on the Olympic Peninsula. He walked out to sit on the drift log halfway between Sonny’s house and the water. A square of artificial daylight lay on the sandy grass to his left, bursting out through the window of Sonny’s studio, where he was probably hard at work.
“I’m going to my studio,” he’d said a short while ago. “See if I can clean it up some.”
One word answer, “No.” And he walked away.
Luki refused to wonder if now, inside his studio, something bad was happening to Sonny—emotions, memories, dope, whatever. He told himself for the hundredth time it was about trust. Soon, his cigarette had come to its predestined seven-minute end, and he was starting to feel the bite of the cold. But instead of going in, he walked down to the edge of the water, dark as it was, with stars sprinkled in the quiet waves. At the edge of his vision, he noticed the studio light disappear from the ground, and moments later he felt, more than heard, Sonny coming out of the house, walking toward him. He didn’t turn
around, but when Sonny reached an arm over his shoulder, Luki took Sonny’s hand and kissed it, not surprised at all, and led him back to the driftwood seat.
Sonny straddled the log next to Luki and leaned in to kiss Luki’s neck. Which tickled in a most seductive way. Sonny’s long legs grabbed hold of him like pincers, and he dragged his lean fingers over Luki’s chest, leaving heat trails on Luki’s night-chilled skin. The whole event felt like a stroke of better-than-luck to Luki because, though he refused to jump to conclusions, he was pretty sure Sonny was making sexual advances. And it had been a couple or a hundred months since any such thing occurred or even was hinted at. So if his response was a little too enthusiastic, a little too heated, he hoped Sonny would forgive him for that.
Better than forgiving, Sonny matched him flame for flame, and pretty soon hands were inside clothes and doing some exquisite touching, tickling, rubbing. But it wasn’t all that comfortable—cold and clothed—so Luki breathed, “Bed, sweetie.”
“Yeah,” Sonny answered, but he didn’t stop what he was doing, and Luki didn’t really want him to.
It made it all the more difficult to insist. “Come on, baby, let’s go.” He took Sonny’s hand out of his clothing and they both jogged, holding hands and holding up their unzipped pants with their free hands, moving about as gracefully as contestants in a three-legged race. Which made Sonny guffaw. He did it from time to time and it always delighted Luki—made him sort of laugh too.
When they reached the house, Luki slammed the door behind them with a foot and rushed to catch up with Sonny, who was already shirtless and dropping his jeans and a step away from the bed. All Luki could think about was skin, Sonny’s skin: bare, sweet, brown skin over legs and ass and chest and shoulders and toes and fingers and yes, penis. Perhaps the sweetest skin of all, that. He wanted so badly to taste it.
When Sonny’s jeans came off and he stood bare and enflamed, molded by lamplight, Luki’s entire being—every sense, every belief, and everything he knew in all the world—was about Sonny, the beautiful, breathtaking, heart-stealing man standing naked before him.