Happy Friday! It's also the final day to avail of the 25% off sale going on at the Dreamspinner Press Store (no April Fool's joke-I promise).
Today, I'm posting another excerpt from Ride-Off, the second book in the Polo Series. In this scene, Ned Temple, Preston's best friend, is pondering his relationship with Bandi, Konrad's son, who is twenty-four years younger.
NED closed the book he’d been pretending to read and tossed it off to the side with a weary sigh. There was no point in checking the time again. He knew it hadn’t advanced much since the last time he’d glanced obsessively at his Rolex. He usually called Bandi between midnight and one in the morning, UK time, and that was still an hour away. Reluctantly, he reached over to the decanter Thomas had left on the side table and poured another finger of whiskey. He’d vowed to curtail his drinking, which had escalated since his return from America, but found it impossible to take his mind off the current state of his love affair without the numbing effect of Lagavulin, the sixteen-year-old single malt whiskey he’d become quite fond of years ago.
Not for the first time, he asked himself why he’d consented to this separation. The altruistic reasons he’d enumerated when Preston had insisted on answers made absolutely no sense when faced with an empty spot on the sofa previously occupied by the love of his life.
A self-deprecating laugh got past the tight band around his throat and he went to stand in front of the fireplace to stare into the blistering pile of logs in search of answers. Why had he let him go? Did he honestly think that Bandi would be back when the most important weapon in Ned’s arsenal had been rejected time and again?
Over the last two years, Ned had discovered that his young lover was nowhere as shallow as the string of forgettable men he’d dallied with in the past. Before this awareness, he’d fallen back on old habits, trying to compensate for the age gap with piles of gifts. Bandi had accepted the cards and flowers, because he thought they were romantic, but he balked the first time Ned had suggested a shopping spree in London.
“I don’t need any clothes,” the younger man had declared, looking a little affronted when Ned made a comment on sprucing up his wardrobe. “Are you ashamed to be seen with a gypsy?”
“Don’t be silly, darling. I just thought you’d enjoy having a couple of shirts by Tom Ford. You so admired the green shirt I wore the other day. That was a Ford.”
“I admired it on you,” Bandi said calmly. “I don’t want or need anything that fancy.”
“What about another of pair of boots?” Ned had suggested. “There’s a marvelous shop in Knightsbridge I discovered a few years back. They stock handmade boots from Spain and Italy that feel broken in―they’re so comfortable. Wouldn’t you like another pair?”
Several months later Bandi had refused to accept the Aston Martin Ned had purchased after a particularly memorable session of lovemaking. He’d been horrified at the prospect of tooling around in a vehicle he hadn’t paid for. When Ned explained it meant nothing to him but a shiny toy, Bandi had stalked off in a fit of anger, but not before hurling the keys at Ned’s chest. That incident had led to their first serious fight. He’d given Ned the cold shoulder for days until the Englishman had sworn off gift buying unless there was a legitimate reason like a birthday or Christmas. Bandi had also set spending limits. Ned wasn’t allowed to purchase anything over a certain amount or it would be summarily returned. He was so relieved to be back in Bandi’s good graces he had promised to be more circumspect when it came to gifts.
Not one of the pretty boys he’d bedded in the last twenty years had ever turned down a present, and he found himself at a loss when confronted with a man who didn’t give a jot for material goods. It was a novelty and made Ned suspicious for weeks. By the time he’d accepted the truth that such a thing existed, an honorable man, he was deeply in love.
The possibility of losing Bandi had resurrected painful memories of a time long ago when he and Preston were teenagers. He’d been fascinated with his American friend for years, but he could never compete with the phantom lover who was the center of Pres’s universe. Although they’dshared several firsts, Ned had always felt like a detour on his best friend’s road to happiness. It was difficult to grasp the mentality of someone so single-minded, and he’d given up trying after Preston had made it abundantly clear they were better friends than lovers. The pain of that rejection had stayed with him for a long time, and he’d been reluctant to open his heart to anyone else lest it be torn apart with hardly any remorse.
Through the succeeding years, Ned had fallen in and out of lust several times. And that’s all it was, a physical need like eating or sleeping. He’d learned a lot about himself in the process and began to count on the one thing that set him apart from the competition―money. Ned’s looks were perfectly acceptable, but nothing out of the ordinary. His ginger-brown hair and blue eyes were typically English, and his forty-eight-year-old body was fit and lean, thanks to the well-equipped gym he’d built on the premises. In reality, he was quite forgettable when compared to Preston, still the most attractive man in the polo circuit, despite his age and silver-streaked hair.
Ned’s big draw was his personality. Being the fourth child of a well-to-do family had led to a pressure-free existence. Familial expectations were minimal, and indulging his penchant for the horsy set was a given. As long as he didn’t get embroiled in any scandals, he was free to pursue his career in polo, which included the usual perks that came with being in the rarefied world of globetrotting, like-minded gentlemen. His reputation as a reliable player had earned him the respect of his peers, and unlike his best friend, the explosive and unpredictable cowboy, Ned was a calming presence in the challenging and oftentimes volatile sport. He was sought after as a friend and companion and his long list of acquaintances included the top echelon of society. He’d never done anything to raise an eyebrow, and even his weakness for pretty boys had been met with amused indulgence; everyone knew they were nothing but a passing fancy.
Falling in love with Bandi had been unexpected, and the accompanying highs and lows of passion, unfamiliar, and downright disturbing. Controlling a relationship with deep pockets was far easier on the nerves, and much more predictable, but not nearly as satisfying. For the first time in his life, Ned was willing to thumb his nose at society and do the unexpected. Taking his relationship with a man twenty-four years his junior to a more permanent level, and acknowledging Bandi as his life partner, would be leaving himself open to criticism. People would say he was a doddering old fool who’d fallen into a familiar trap, but he didn’t give a damn. He knew their feelings were genuine and the naysayers could go hang themselves.
All the books in the Polo Series are currently on sale at the Dreamspinner Store, including The Sixth Chukker which releases April 8.