here is a short preview of The Soul Cages, my new queer paranormal romance novella.
Jeremy noticed the guy with the glasses halfway through his second set. Actually, that wasn’t true. The guy had come in halfway through his first set, in the company of a couple of friends. Now his friends were gone, and he was still there, alone, nursing a drink and focusing all his attention on watching Jeremy perform.
Dominic’s Tap House was full on this Friday night. The usual crowd was there, mostly professionals trying to unwind after a long work week. Jeremy had lost count of the number of times he’d played Dominic’s Jeremy, and they’d already booked him for next week. As gigs went, it wasn’t that exciting, but he was getting paid to play and sing, and you couldn’t really beat that.
He’d just started “I Won’t Back Down” when his attention settled on the guy with the glasses a second time. They locked eyes, and Jeremy forgot where he was in the song. He looked away to get his bearings and smoothed it over. But anyone who knew the song would have noticed he’d stumbled. Embarrassing. He could usually play this song in his sleep.
For the rest of his set, he focused his attention on the ceiling fans so he didn’t get distracted again.
Once he’d finished, ending with his acoustic version of “Fearless,” which was always a crowd-pleaser, he risked glancing at the guy one more time. Glasses looked away, but it was obvious he’d been staring at Jeremy.
What was this guy’s deal? As he put his guitar away and moved to the bar to get his free drink, Jeremy swung his eyes toward Glasses’ table.
Jono sat across from him.
Great. That’s all Jeremy needed.
Glasses hadn’t seen Jono, of course, but for the rest of the night, Jeremy would know he was there. Should he go over there and say something? Maybe the guy hadn’t been staring at all or had just had his attention grabbed by the lights? Maybe Jeremy was reading this situation all wrong.
Before the bartender handed him his rum and coke, Jono was there, sitting on the empty stool beside him.
“So,” Jono began casually. “Are you going to go over there, or …”
Jeremy shot his brother a glare and subvocalized his answer. Jono would hear him that way, but no one else would notice him talking to someone who was, for all intents and purposes, not actually there.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The cute nerd who’s been making eyes at you all night,” Jono said with a grin. “I know you noticed because you messed up ‘I Won’t Back Down.’”
Jeremy accepted his drink from the bartender and risked throwing a glance over at the table. Glasses was still sitting alone, but he had his phone out now, and it looked like he was texting somebody. Didn’t matter who. It was none of his business. While Glasses looked down at his phone, Jeremy risked taking a more careful look at the guy.
He was dressed in professional clothes. Besides the nerd glasses, which Jeremy had to admit really worked on him, he wore a blue button-down and a pale-yellow tie, which he’d loosened. His hair was thick and brown and sticking up a little in the front as if it didn’t want to lie down properly.
“Come on, J, he’s exactly your type,” Jono said.
“How do you know what my type is?” Jeremy asked his brother.
“I pay attention. I have no life of my own, so I have to entertain myself with yours.”
Shame clutched at Jeremy’s heart and heated his face. After all, it was his fault Jono didn’t have his own life.
“I have a feeling that if I don’t go over there and talk to him, I’m never going to hear the end of it.”
“Now, does that sound like me?” Jono asked innocently.
Jeremy sipped his drink, considering. He had half an hour before his next set; he might as well talk to someone. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
He grabbed his drink and waded through the crowd, finding the table Glasses was sitting at. He paused at the edge, clearing his throat to get the guy’s attention, and asked, “Is this seat taken?”
Glasses looked up in shock, his eyes widening behind his thick frames.
“Do you, like, need the chair, or …?”
“I was wondering if you’d mind if I joined you? For a few minutes.”
Glasses looked like he was ready to jump out of his seat. Had Jeremy completely misread things? But Glasses said, “Not at all,” and did Jeremy the favor of putting his phone away.
Jeremy dropped into the seat and took a long swig of his rum and coke. Jono had disappeared again, which was probably for the best. Though Jeremy was certain that his brother would be somewhere, watching this.
Finally, Jeremy extended his hand and said, “I’m Jeremy.”
“I know,” Glasses said. “Your name was on the sign. I’m Adam.”
“Adam,” Jeremy said, rolling the name around in his mouth along with his drink. “It’s nice to meet you.”
God, he was rusty. This was the lamest conversation opener he could imagine.
Jono appeared behind Adam for a moment, making the motion that he was hanging himself. Jeremy ignored him.
Adam grinned and saved Jeremy from embarrassing himself. “You’re very good.”
“Thank you,” Jeremy said. “Your friends coming back?”
“Oh, them. No, they’ve moved on for the evening. My roommate and her boyfriend. I think they’re going back to the apartment to … you know. I really didn’t want to be home for that.”
Jeremy laughed. “Yeah, it could be awkward.”
“So, I thought I’d stay here, get drunk and listen to some music,” Adam said.
“Sounds like a plan,” Jeremy said. “So, what do you do? For a living, I mean.”
“I’m a schoolteacher. Marshall Middle School.”
“Ah. I hated middle school.”
Adam chuckled. “I think everybody hated middle school. Probably why I like it. For the most part, the kids still want to like you, but they’re getting mature enough you can have some great conversations.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Jeremy said. “Kids scare me.”
Adam grinned again. “It’s not for the faint of heart. So … is this what you do full time?”
“I play gigs in various places and give guitar and piano lessons. I also do voiceovers for local tv and radio and narrate audiobooks. With everything mixed together, I make ends meet.”
“That’s really interesting,” Adam said. He twisted his hands together as if he were nervous about something. “A couple of your songs I hadn’t heard before. Did you write them?”
Jeremy nodded. “I did.”
“They’re really good,” Adam said. “I have no musical talent at all, so I’m always impressed by people who do.”
“I have a feeling you have your own talents,” Jeremy said and downed the last of his rum and coke.
Adam’s face flushed a deep red before he stammered, “Can I ask you a favor?”
“One of the classes I teach is called ‘life skills.’ I have guest speakers from different career fields come in and talk to the kids about what they do, and how they prepared, and things like that. Would you be interested in being one of our guests?”
The invitation was unexpected. “Did you not hear me when I said I was terrified of children?”
Jeremy found he quite liked the sound.
“I promise to protect you.”
“When did you have in mind?”
“Would next Friday be too short notice?” Adam asked.
Why not? “I think I could make that work.”
“Great!” Adam said, taking out his phone again. “Let me get your number, and we can make the arrangements.”
Jeremy pulled out his wallet and took out one of his business cards, handing it to Adam. “That’s my business phone number, but I’ll give you my personal cell number, too.”
Jeremy gave him the number, and Adam read it back, making sure he’d entered it into his phone correctly.
He needed to tune up before his next set, so Jeremy checked his watch. “It was nice talking to you, Adam,” he said, extending his hand again. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”
God, he sounded so lame. Musicians were supposed to be cool.
But Adam only smiled and shook his hand again. “I’ll be in touch.”
Jeremy nodded, then got up and made his way back to the green room. As he did, Jono fell in step beside him.
“That seems promising,” his brother said.
“He just wants me to talk to his class.”
“Or he was using that as an excuse to get your number,” Jono said. “Honestly, how are you so bad at knowing when someone is flirting with you?”
“I’ll probably never hear from him again, anyway,” Jeremy said. “But you were right. He is exactly my type.”
Jeremy laughed. “Yeah, sexy nerd.”
get the book here. ebook is available now, on kindle and kindle unlimited. Paperback will be live soon.