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Exclusive Excerpt #2
Niall has been in love with Peter since he was fifteen. After being apart for eight years, he’s looking forward to starting a new life, one that no longer involves subterfuge. He’s disappointed to find that nothing has changed; in fact, things are worse.
At my desk the next morning, I thought back on Peter’s midnight visit. He was gone when I woke up. There was nothing to indicate he’d ever been there other than the used condom in the wastebasket by my bed. Even though he hadn’t left money on the nightstand, I still felt like his whore. He was getting worse instead of better. I pulled out my phone and sent him a blistering text, telling him to stay away. I was tired of his shit and determined to push him out of my heart.
My new resolve lasted about three hours, long enough for Peter to mount a counteroffensive. A messenger showed up after lunch with a magnificent purple and white orchid in what looked like an antique celadon vase. I wasn’t a connoisseur of either orchids or Chinese porcelain, but I was a sucker for gestures, be they grandiose or sweetly romantic. The accompanying apology in his handwriting weakened me further. At least he’d had the decency to walk to the florist himself rather than sending a minion. When my phone rang about an hour later, I knew it was him.
“Good save,” I said by way of greeting.
“I’m sorry, Niall. Am I forgiven?”
“Only if you can explain what’s going on. Why are you more insensitive than ever? I thought things would be different this time, Peter. Are we regressing instead of moving in the right direction?”
He sighed. “I’ve got a lot going on you don’t know about.”
“Talk to me then,” I pleaded. “Why are you keeping me at arm’s length?”
“It’s local shit that doesn’t concern you.”
“Anything that bothers you is worth discussing,” I said. “If nothing else, I can be your sounding board.”
“Why don’t we do it over dinner?” he suggested. “Come to my apartment after work and I’ll wine and dine you.”
“I’m more interested in talking than eating.”
“We’ll get to that later.”
“Do you promise?”
“I give you my word.”
I looked at the appointment calendar on my desk and saw that my evening was free. Tomorrow was Gerard’s art show, which I still planned to attend, unless Peter proposed tonight. Righto. The odds of that happening were a zillion to one.
Making up my mind, I informed him I’d be there around six.
“That’s great,” he said, sounding relieved. “Niall?”
“Putting up with me for so long,” Peter said softly. “You’re a prince.”
My heart stuttered for a sec, then resumed a steady beat. I couldn’t remember the last time Peter said anything remotely meaningful. He must really be in a bad place if this slipped out so easily.
“I love you, Peter. You know I’ll always be here for you.”
“See you later,” he said, ending the call.
Hope split open like a ripe fig. Peter was emotionally stunted, and I was a fool for buying into his crap. Irritated, I turned my attention back to the job at hand.
Minister Guo had begrudgingly agreed to add a few same-sex couples in the very distant background of their new travel posters. The images had to be subtle. Anything overt would be dismissed as inappropriate. Rather than using artists on our staff, which were costly in her opinion, she insisted on raw talent from the Mainland she could get for free. I told her the wrong images could ruin the entire campaign, and it was in her country’s best interest to use the best, regardless of cost. She’d asked for a list of names and samples of their work so she could make a decision.
Naturally, I thought of Gerard. I’d worked with him once before, and he was damned good. Plus, he was a local guy and understood the prevailing mindset. He’d be perfect for the job, except he wouldn’t come cheap. Perhaps if he learned the project was for the PRC, he might be more benevolent. On the other hand, why should he give them a discount unless he could get something in return? I had no idea what that might be at this point, but it would be something to discuss tomorrow if I could drag him away from his admirers.
Peter’s place on Central Street was in the same building owned and occupied by Wei Bank. It overlooked Victoria Harbor and the views were fantastic. It was also very convenient for him to take the elevator down to work each morning, put in the requisite hours to keep everyone happy, then go back upstairs to the penthouse to change into club attire. The truth was he spent more time at Pandora than at his day job. It was James logging in the long hours and making financial decisions that would impact customers from all over the world.
His majordomo, Shun, opened the door when I rang the bell. I knew he’d disappear the minute we were settled, but he’d stick around long enough to make sure Peter had everything within reach. He was a fixture in Peter’s life and privy to all his secrets, which included me.
Bowing, Shun greeted me in Cantonese. “Welcome home, young sir.”
“Thank you,” I replied in the same language.
“I’ll let Master know you’ve arrived.”
Shun disappeared, soundless in his embroidered cloth slippers. He didn’t look any older than he had when I first laid eyes on him. He could have been in his mid-forties, or late fifties for all I knew, but the dour expression and malevolent glint in his all-seeing eyes hadn’t changed. Most everyone was terrified of Shun, a reputation he’d perpetuated by earning a black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and keeping his distance from the rest of the staff. He’d been charged with Peter’s safety when he’d returned from college at the age of twenty-two and hadn’t left his side since. I was always treated like James’s best friend, the pesky young admirer to the more sophisticated older brother, until Shun walked in on us one day sucking each other off. He didn’t even blink, only shut the door and switched my honorific. Going forward, I was sir instead of boy.
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