The cover is gorgeous and I'm looking forward to a great read from Johnny. He is a sweetheart and I'm proud to be part of his relese day festivities.
Please enjoy our virtual sitdown.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since I was a kid but it wasn't until I started telling lies on my “What I Did Last Summer” type themes that things really started getting interesting. I'd make stuff up because I came from a poor background and we lived in the ghetto. We didn't have extra money for camps or vacations or anything like that. We grew up on welfare and it would piss me off that all these other kids went on about their fantastic summer vacations. Moral of the lesson? When the truth is boring, make something up!
After that I was hooked.
In junior high, after reading something I wrote, my homeroom teacher said that's what I should devote my life to. It stuck in my head but not my heart. Or perhaps it was the other way around. Regardless, although I've tried here and there, I was always rejected and I finally decided to get serious in February of 2009, when I got laid off from a job of 8 years. I figured it was time to shit or get off the pot.
And here I am.
What made you decide that you wanted to put yourself out there to publish?
What made me decide? That's easy. It was the desire to tell a story. Way back, when I started writing porn for the gay magazines, I did it because I was so fed up and thought I could do better. I tried and much to my surprise, I was published!
Before you started, had you done any fanfiction? If so, what fandom?
I'm afraid I haven't done any fanfiction though I do have fantasies about Daniel Radcliffe and his magic wand. Oh, and Elijah Wood and that ring. Does it get bigger? Can you use it as a cockring? LOL! Sorry. Got carried away there. Do those count? Fantasies I mean.
Are you in agreement that writing fanfiction is a great way to practice ones craft, why or why not?
Without having written fanfiction it's difficult to say whether I agree or not. I can only use my experience writing porn. And I can tell you that writing porn, like filming it or working on other porn sites, is a wonderful way to hone your skills. It's definitely a good way to break out into other areas. I'd say anything that can get you writing in a fairly disciplined fashion and how to tell a story is probably a good thing.
What is your favorite subgenre to write?
Other than the m/m subgenre I haven't really tried my hand at any others. I'd like to, eventually. I just haven't done it yet. The m/m market is fun and alluring but I want to spread my creative juices around (no pun intended). I want to get to the point where I can weave a story to a broader audience with characters that just happen to be m/m, f/f, m/f or any other configuration. Know what I'm saying? I mean, why limit yourself? I'd like to try my hand at all of it before my time comes.
Is there one that you haven’t tried that you see yourself doing in the future?
Oh, totally! Let's see. Suspense, horror, thrillers. In fact, I wouldn't mind trying a good murder mystery if I get so inspired.
Would you ever write a hetero romance? Why or why not?
For me, this isn't a matter of would I, it's when.
What is your opinion on the “chicks with dicks” analogy? In your opinion, is it wrong for your males to be emotional or romantic?
I don't think it's wrong for a man to be emotional or romantic. It can happen. We all have our soft moments whether we like it or not. Sometimes we can also enjoy being romantic. Especially when there's a hot piece of tail involved! What I don't like is when the realism of man-to-man sex is watered down in such a way that it no longer seems real or, worse yet, unarousing. I've read scenes where I'm like, guys don't do this. Once that happens it's hard for me to keep reading.
Then again, everyone's different. Just like there are women who love the soft pretty side of romance, so do men. And just because some like the “softness” or the escape of an unrealistic love affair doesn't mean they can't getting smutty and groove on the grit. There's a time and a place and, as writers, we need to remember the demographic we're writing for yet still tell a story that would interest us. It's a tricky balance.
Your first published book?
Casa Rodrigo. Very near, dear and special to me, despite the controversial topic of slavery.
I’m of the opinion that erotica doesn’t have to be real all the time to make a good story, what are your thoughts?
If what you mean by that is that the situations themselves don't need to be (example: having sex with a little person on a crowded subway platform) then I'd agree with you. We're the writers. We can make anything happen. However, the action/motivation has to be realistic enough to suspend your disbelief. I don't quite know how to explain it other than that it needs to make sense in the context of how the scene is written. So maybe there's a secluded alcove on that subway platform where the two go and hide in, or maybe one of them has the key to the janitor's closet or an electrical closet.
Who are the authors that you look up to?
Oh, wow. There are quite a few. It also depends on the genre. My tastes are pretty varied so it's hard to list. I admire different authors for different reasons, too. It could be for the way they write a story, their characterization, plots; sometimes even just for the way they write a scene. J.K. Rowling, Armistead Maupin, Chuck Pahluniuk (not sure of his spelling) and many, many more.
What books are you reading at the moment? Its okay to give a fellow author a plug!
Sadly, at the moment I'm not reading anything. However I have about a dozen e-books in queue on my Nook; Michele Montgomery, Sloan Parker, Serena Yates, Treva Harte, Deanna Wadsworth and S.J. Frost are at the top of the list at the moment.
As for actual books, on my nightstand I have Rick Reed, Janet Evanovich and Thomas Sniegoski.
What are you working on now?
I'm not actively writing anything at the moment but I'm going to start editing “The Rosas of Spanish Harlem” over the next week or two. I'm also in the process of doing chapter-by-chapter outlines of a fun love story called “Have Bucket, Will Travel.” The character bios on that one are already done.
When creating your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?
Oh, good question! Depends. Sometimes characters are inspired by a celebrity, though I might change a feature or two. Other times, I'll see a picture of a naked guy (did I mention I freelance for a porn outfit?) and go, YES! That's so-and-so.
Sometimes, it's just some random guy. The right man walks by and moves in a certain way he just might wind up in one of my scenes!
And then there was the time Kayla posted that one pic on the Facebook group, Inspired Writing. It motivated me to write “Learning To Samba.” So, I guess the answer to your question is, most times they are modeled after real people whether I know them or not.
If you write gay romance or erotica, just how descriptive are you in their sex scenes?
Hardcore…XXX…explicit, baby! You don't have have to talk just as long as you're grunting and moaning. I want to know I've got a live one writhing beneath me and that you're involved, not mentally preparing your grocery list.
As a gay fiction writer, do you feel that the trend is changing where it is becoming more mainstream?
In the short amount of time I've been doing this, I think the market is growing. I don't know if it's that there is more awareness of it or that more writers are dabbling in the genre. I'd like for it to continue to grow though I can't quite picture Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton with a copy of my book in their Kindle.
LOL! Wouldn't that be a riot?
What is your opinion as to why publishers only want to group all manlove stories under erotica? Do you feel this is a hindrance to our genre?
I haven't been doing this long enough to see it but it wouldn't surprise me. However, isn't that like filming commercials or making movies with an all black or hispanic cast? I've stopped myself from saying I'm a gay erotic romance writer. Now I just say I write gay romance. Readers can figure out the eroticism for themselves. Perhaps I'm wrong in saying this but I think that by just picking up a romance novel one should automatically assume a certain amount of eroticism; whether soft or hardcore.
Do you think it’s time for publishers to begin calling gay fiction/erotica what it is instead of m/m? Why or why not?
I'm going to answer that with a question. Wouldn't it be wonderful if publishers and Hollywood stop pandering to various demographics and just create entertainment? I don't care if the lead is gay, straight, black, hispanic, or whatever. If i'm interested in the story and it's someone I can relate to, that should be all that matters.
However, as humans we need boxes. No matter how sad it sounds, we need tick marks and categories to store things into. I wish it wasn't that way because when I pick up a book it doesn't say it's for straight people. It's just a book someone thought they could make money off of so they published it.
Labels? They should only be for packages. But I didn't create people. I can only create stories and characters that will hopefully be able to look past those things.
Recently, a writer sabotaged her career by answering a bad review on a blog. How would you have handled this and do you think authors should answer their reviews?
When I first started in this genre, someone very wise (You reading this Treva? See? I DO listen to you!) once said, “Don't read reviews. They're bad for your ego.” Bob Fosse, the choreographer, said the same to Bebe Neuwirth so there must be something to it. It's kinda like watching the news, which I don't. Just imagine what mess I'd be if I did!
That doesn't mean I don't read them, though. A well-written review can motivate you to the ends of the earth. But a badly written one, meaning one that isn't well thought out and harsh, can send you to the depths of depression.
Do you think women being a good portion of the amount of gay fiction writers detracts from the genre? Be honest and why or why not?
I don't know that the writer's sex has anything to do with detracting or adding to a genre. When it comes to writing about the physical act of sex between men, however, I do think some have it and some don't. I think it's about tapping into your male persona (if you're female) and letting the butch mo fo come up and hose the deck down with some testosterone.
That having been said, I must admit that when I first found out that it was predominantly women that like to read m/m I was floored. But hey, like with anything, you get used to it and move on.
What are your thoughts on the fact that some gay male writers discriminate against women?
I'm obviously not a woman but I have to interject here. This, to me, is wrong. I hate to sound judgmental on this topic but let's look at it this way. It's like being hispanic and calling yourself, or any other hispanic you know, by the S word. Or being African American and using the N word. Or being a gay guy and using words that rankle my very last nerve to this day. If we don't want other people to use those words, then we need to stop using them, right here, right now.
How it pertains to the original question? If you don't want people to discriminate against you, for whatever reason, then DON'T discriminate against others. Period.
What is the major difference between male and female writers?
Ummm. You mean, other than sex? I'm not sure. I've read some really good stories with hot sex scenes from both just as I've read bad ones from both.
I read a blog about gay fiction writer’s losing their imagination because they are writing the same subjects repeatedly, what are your thoughts? http//www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/?p=42883
Let's face it. There's nothing new under the sun. I hope I never get to that point but there's always doubt on whether or not I'll be able to write another book. I'll admit I've caught myself doing the formula for one other book I was going to work on. I immediately dropped the story as a possibility because I didn't want to go down that road. Sometimes, we have to. This is what we want, eventually, to pay the bills. We just may have to compromise by writing about the same subjects.
Hopefully, however, we can find something unique about the story we're working on; be it a character, a plot, sub-plot, location, or some sort of twist.
Losing my ability to write, at this point, would be a nightmare. When I was in that deep depression – I believe you read about it – I couldn't write and it was absolutely horrible for me. It was like, why bother?
What is it about gay fiction and or romance that pleasures you to write it?
The fact that I can pretty much do anything and go anywhere in my mind without fear of censoring myself; although that does tend to come later. Throwing myself into the story and feeling their excitement as if it were happening to me.
Name one celeb that you wish was gay and why?
I do like Daniel Radcliffe. Then there's Shia LeBeouf. He's yummy. However, I love it when the big, rough and tumble athletes come out cause it's like, “In your face! See that world? We're not all nelly stereotypes.”
Name two male celebs that you’d like to see in a hot make out session?
Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint. Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. NFL's Michael Irvin and…anybody! Ben Browder and anybody! Hmmm. Ben Browder and Michael Irvin. I think there'd be a fight on who was going to be top, though.
Your favorite gay tv show or movie?
I don't know that I have any. However, I have completely fallen in love with Russell T Davies “Doctor Who” – Eccleston and Tennant. And of course, Captain Jack Harkness from Torchwood. Why? Because Davies has made their sexuality a non-issue. It just is and the other characters make nothing of it. They openly explore sensuality and sexuality in the way it should be approached; with one of amazing curiosity and wonder.
Do you feel that celebs who are gay or bi should come out the closet?
That's a personal choice. I don't think anyone has the right to out someone else. However, if someone has clout, like Wanda Sykes, then coming out is a beautiful thing because it gives people reason to pause. Again, it's all about breaking barriers and stepping beyond boundaries to the point where, eventually, people are like, oh who cares.
For the men in your books, commando or underwear?
Depends on the character and the situation they might be getting into. Personally, I like going commando but sometimes a pair of red silk boxers can make you feel like you're gliding through life!
Favorite character in one of your books?
I like them all for various reasons.
The character you identify with?
Brian Oliver from “Learning To Samba.”
Have you attended a pride parade? If so, where you inspired when doing so?
Yes, I have. The only one that inspired me, however, was my very first one. I was 19 and I hadn't come out yet. My first boyfriend made me stop while in the middle of marching up 5th Avenue, in Manhattan. He said, “look before you.” I did. Then he said, “now look behind you.” I did. Then he said that I would remember that moment forever because all those people were just like me, or supportive of people just like me. And you know what? I did remember. It was massive; wall-to-wall people lining the streets, marching for one common cause during a time that still remembered why we marched and why we forced ourselves to remember so we'd never be oppressed again.
If you’ve watched gay porn, tell me your favorite movie and or star.
I don't usually remember names or movies but some do stand out. Jim Pulver, from the 80s, naturally Al Parker. Because much of my work is in the porn industry, someone has to truly stand out for me to remember them. For instance: Ashley Ryder. What a sweet and innocent looking little thing he is but what a fucking perv! And the things you can lose up in there! Damn.
After traveling through Europe trying to recover from a loss, reclusive romance novelist Brian Oliver returns to his childhood home in order to find himself and re-establish a severed relationship with his sister. What he unexpectedly discovers, however, is that even an old dog like him can still learn new tricks. Especially if the one teaching is João da Silva, a 25-year-old Brazilian hot-ass with a major thing for Daddies.
Brian soon realizes that with forgiveness and acceptance comes great emotional freedom if he and João can rekindle the deep and burning lust for life he’d once had. Do love, sex, and passion have an expiration date, or can Brian Learn to Samba?
An Excerpt from Johnny Miles's Learning to Samba
No matter where I live or how far I roam, New York was, is, and probably always will be the center of my universe. Even after moving away close to twenty years ago -- though I’d visit at least once a year -- I considered New York to be my home, despite the gloom and grime, the sticky summer heat, and the overwhelming sensory overload that family can be.
New York is where I get grounded. It’s where I reconnect when I’m feeling lost. Is it any wonder, then, I would come back here once I chose to take control of my life again?
The last time I’d come back was after my partner, Joshua, died. Seven years was a long time to be away, and as much as I loved New York, I admit it felt odd to be back in the city after traipsing through Europe for so long, almost as if I were a stranger in my own land. Much had changed. It had been a while since my parents had passed on, I no longer had friends in the city, and my sister and I hadn’t exactly parted the best of friends after Joshua’s funeral.
But I suppose there comes a time when we all want to go back to recapture something we might have lost along the way.
In Brooklyn I didn’t feel so painfully lost and without direction. I could remember who I used to be and where I came from. It was the one place that could remind me of who I wanted to become and where I wanted to go next. It was also the one place that never failed to remind me of why I chose to leave in the first place.
* * * * *
After the plane landed at JFK, I took the Air Train to Jamaica Station. From there, I hopped on the subway and went into Manhattan, then on into Brooklyn -- to Flatbush and the Borough of Kings.
The closer I got to home, the more nostalgic I became. Armed with my backpack -- which contained my laptop, e-reader, and a couple of days’ worth of clothing -- I allowed myself several hours to retrace some of the steps I’d once taken during my high school years: Prospect Park and Grand Army Plaza, Brighton Beach and Coney Island, my high school which looked so much smaller than I remembered it.
When I got off at the train station near home, I walked down Newkirk Avenue, past my first apartment -- a one-bedroom, on East Eighteenth Street. From there, I walked to the bagel shop at the corner of Foster. The owner was ancient now, his face lined and furrowed, but he was still there. It didn’t surprise me. Some people never leave Brooklyn. They never dream for more than what they have beyond their four walls. Or maybe they do and think they can’t do anything about it.
Joshua used to think they lacked courage.
I ordered a heavily buttered bialy and a chocolate drink, the way I used to when I was in high school, then sat on the bench across from the store. The melted butter ran down my fingers as I sank my teeth into the bagel. I closed my eyes and savored the taste, being in the moment and breathing in the brisk air.
I opened my eyes and took a swig of the chocolate drink. It didn’t taste anything like I remembered, and I wondered if it was the flavor that had changed or me.
After polishing off the bialy, I took a final swig to wash it all down, then tossed the rest of the drink in the trash. I wiped my fingers with a napkin from inside the now almost see-through bag.
All that butter, I thought. Definitely not good for the heart or the battle of the bulge that had become increasingly more difficult to keep at bay. Once, I could eat anything and not worry about how I looked.
I was still trim and in decent shape. Not many men could say that at my age.
With a sigh, I wondered what had happened. When had my youth slipped away? I’d been so busy planning and doing that I hadn’t noticed I no longer had the spontaneity I once possessed. Or had it possessed me?
Nothing mattered then but my impetuous desires and the passions of life. Now I longed for simpler days when I knew everything and, without thought to consequence, would say, “Fuck it! I’m outta here. You’re all a bunch of douche bags.”
Everything had been sunny then. One continuous spring and summer I took for granted.
I looked up at the sky, and the weak autumn sunshine felt good on my face. It seemed as if it tried to assure me.
Something’s coming. All you have to do is wait.
I took a deep breath, exhaled, and cautiously hoped it was so. The last seven years had been far too painful being alone. Getting older didn’t make it any easier. Especially when all the beautiful young men I admired or who struck a spark in my loins all seemed to consider me ancient.
But there was more to it than that.
I hadn’t written a single word since Joshua died. Each time I faced the blank computer screen, each time I sat down to try, characters, scenarios, and plots escaped me. I’d become unmotivated, uninterested, and lacking in focus.
The worst thing was that I had begun to think I’d dried up. That maybe after a dozen books and a couple of movie options, I had no stories left in me.
And if I couldn’t write anymore, if I couldn’t tell a story and move myself while doing it, then what was the point…of anything?
* * * * *
I turned the corner onto Westminster Road and stopped suddenly. Would my sister, Kay, even be there? I hadn’t called to let her know I was coming, I hadn’t e-mailed, and I hadn’t bothered to send her a note via snail mail. She probably didn’t even know I’d been out of the country.
And what makes you think she wants you in her house after all those hurtful things?
No. Not her house. Our house. The house we both grew up in.
I pushed my fears down to where all the others lived and looked at my wristwatch. Three in the afternoon. There was a good chance no one would be there. Then I remembered Kay had chosen to continue a practice begun by our mother. She used to leave a key beneath a flowerpot beside the wicker couch on the porch.
Old, comforting memories. Funny how they always made me feel like a child again.
I shifted my backpack and started walking. Just a few more houses, on the right.
As I slowly made my way, a strange sensation -- something like a band -- wrapped around my chest and back. My lungs felt as if they didn’t want to expand. I forced myself to breathe. To relax. Everything would be fine.
What if I didn’t find what I was looking for? What if the direction I needed, what I had lost, remained in the distance and out of reach? Or worse yet. What if I never found it again? I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be like that. New York never failed me. Nor did it cease to amaze me. I might not get exactly what I wanted, but New York always gave me what I needed -- new experiences and a recharge, even if it sometimes came at a cost. There was always a give and take.
The thought made me think of Joshua, as the city always did, and a refrain from his favorite song -- Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” -- popped into mind.
It was so easy living day by day, out of touch with the rhythm and blues…
I started to cry, secretly ashamed that after all this time I wasn’t over Joshua completely. Unable to stop the tears that escaped me, I was at least grateful there were no witnesses.
Damn you, Joshua! Why did you have to leave me alone? Why didn’t you listen? Why didn’t you quit smoking?
But what was the point of asking such questions? He’d died seven years ago now. And no matter how many people said it got easier, that I’d get over him, I never had. You never get over someone being gone. You just get used to it.
I still missed Joshua. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day. On my birthday. On his birthday. On our anniversary. When the day dawned blue with promise and when it was gray and dreary.
Holidays were the worst. Kay would call months in advance, even after the fight we’d had. She always left a message in a tone that sounded almost apologetic. She’d invite me to come and stay with her and the kids, but I never did. Not just because of our fight. I just couldn’t be around people. Loneliness was sharp enough, alone during holidays. While in the company of others, however, it was so sharp it sometimes took my breath away.
Strange how one person can invade every single cell of your body with his essence, his scent, his spirit.
Something fluttered in my heart as I stood at the curb, and I could have sworn Joshua was near. Goose bumps broke out on my flesh, the way they did when Joshua so much as smiled at me. A tender breeze, like a soft kiss, caressed my skin.
Let me go, the breeze seemed to whisper. I leaned into it with longing, as if it could possibly stroke my cheek the way he once did.
I still felt lost without him, possessed by his memory. I knew it was time to move on, but how do you put behind more than twenty years of knowing and loving someone? Sharing your dreams, thoughts, and ideas. The good times and bad. The waxing and waning cycles of sex -- sometimes even the occasional third partner to help spice things up.
It was time to put myself back out there, but I was frightened and nervous. Except for the sometimes-necessary hookup, I hadn’t dated anyone since Joshua died. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to date again. My single days hadn’t exactly been fun-filled.
But I wanted someone to hold me at night and tell me everything would be all right. Someone who would keep the monsters from crawling out from under the bed. Only I didn’t look forward to sitting in a bar, glancing into my drink or off in the distance with a detached stare, avoiding another’s gaze for fear of seeing my own desperation reflected in his eyes.
There was also the gnawing realization that of the three men I’d met in seven years, none of them had been able to satisfy my sexual cravings.
“Excuse me. Can I help you?” someone called in an accent I couldn’t place. Surprised, I sucked air sharply into my lungs and quickly wiped my tears away.
A young man in his midtwenties stood before me. He was shirtless, his hands on narrow hips, groin thrust toward me. His skin, the color of brown sugar, was naturally smooth. It looked like it would feel soft under my touch. He was toned and defined with round sculpted shoulders, perfectly shaped limbs, and washboard abs. Two veins, one on either side of his belly button, ran down on a slight angle and hid somewhere beneath worn and faded, low-riding jeans that left much to my imagination, several inches below a flat navel.
“Are you…looking for someone?” The young man’s question forced me to glance away from his groin and up into his face. He had full and luscious red lips, slightly parted. They appeared as if he had been sucking on a cherry ice pop.
He had thick, incredibly dark hair, somewhat tousled, and an almost Roman nose.
But it was his eyes that caught my breath and refused to let go. They glittered and sparkled with much life, curiosity, and wonder. Yet something dark and tumultuous, almost broody and intense, lurked near the surface.
I knew on the spot he was trouble, or perhaps just what I needed.
“I…uh,” I started, then cleared my throat, unable to break his gaze. He cocked his head, raised an eyebrow, and recognition flittered in his eyes. He smiled suddenly, and bright white teeth with sharp canines flashed at me. I was reminded of wolves and vampires. I sensed a caged animal, yearning to be free and untethered, somewhere beneath the surface.
“I…know…you.” He spoke slowly, as if searching for a memory or the right words. This new and beautiful face looked like that of a boy. Except he was all man.
“No! Wait. Let me see. I know this.” He scrunched up his face, and I dared a glance away to make sure I hadn’t stumbled onto the wrong lawn. The number over the door was correct. The porch swing was still up, and the rose bushes Dad had planted in front of the porch railing were still there. Even our initials -- Kay’s and mine -- still showed through on the riser of the front step, no matter how much paint had been used to cover them.
I was definitely in the right place, but who was he? And what was he doing here? A lawn mower sat a few feet behind him. Was he the gardener? Perhaps my sister had thrown caution to the wind and started dating a younger man?
Good for you, Kay. I wish I could…
“I’ve got it!”
I didn’t have time to reply. The young man was suddenly on me. He held me in his strong arms, squeezing me tight as if we were long-lost friends. He pinned my upper arms to my sides, and all I could do was touch his bare flesh, my hands around his small waist. It was enough to disturb seven years of longing. Seven years of desire welled up deep inside me.
I tried to pull back and get away before he could feel my growing erection against him, but he held me in place. I felt the heat on my face as I blushed, knowing there was no way he could have missed it. But he didn’t say anything.
“You’re Kay’s brother. I’ve heard much about you. I’m João.” The young man pulled away from me finally. He kissed my left cheek, then my right, and smiled broadly while he held my shoulders with strong, steady hands. I was glad. His grip was probably the only thing keeping me from collapsing, as I was suddenly weak in the knees.
Another breeze blew around us. I noted the goose bumps that broke out on João’s flesh. His tiny nipples engorged as if they had been tweaked, and I could almost hear Joshua’s surreptitious laugh.
A car door slammed behind me, and a shriek split the air.
João and I both turned to see Kay emerging from her dusty and dented car. She still wore her hospital scrubs as she raced toward me. A few feet away, she stopped abruptly as if she were uncertain. Then I opened my arms, and she ran into them. We embraced.
I felt good with my big sister again. Especially since it was just the two of us left now; Mom died twelve years prior, and Dad followed six months after. Kay lost Harold when the World Trade Center fell, and I lost Joshua two years later.
But no matter how tightly my sister held me, no matter how much we cried in each other’s arms, no matter how glad we were to see each other, nothing compared to the gratification of feeling a hot man’s arms around me. I’d suspected it, but until João touched me, I hadn’t realized just how cold I’d been or how desperately I’d wanted a man in my arms once more.
“Oh God! Where are my manners?” Kay exclaimed. “I’m so sorry. Brian, this is João. João, this is my baby brother.”
“C’mon, Kay. I’m forty-eight, for crying out loud.”
“So? You’re still my baby brother.”
“I didn’t know him at first,” João said with a grin. “Then I remembered his wedding picture. To…Josh. Yes?”
“That’s right. Josh. Joshua.” I smiled and nodded, feeling as if someone had just let the air out of my balloon.
“I am sorry for your loss.” João put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. The heat from his palm made my flesh tingle with excitement, and I nervously remembered that Kay stood beside me.
“Uh…thank you. That was seven years ago now, though.”
“Time doesn’t matter if the dead still live in your heart.” João placed his hand flat against my chest, his voice soft, deep, and strangely seductive. His gaze held mine, and I felt something spark between us. By the flicker in his eyes, the dilation of his pupils, and the flare of his nostrils, I could see he had felt it too. His lips parted ever so slightly, and one corner of his mouth lifted in what looked like a curious smile.
“Two years after I lost my Harold,” Kay added distantly.
My attention was pulled away from João, but I avoided Kay’s gaze in case she was looking at me. I was still confused by what I had just felt when the young man placed a hand over my heart, and I didn’t want her to pick up on my thoughts.
There was an awkward silence.
“Enough sadness!” João exclaimed suddenly. He clapped his hands twice in the air as if to proclaim the past as something that had ended.
“You” -- he pointed at Kay, then prodded me in the chest -- “are both alive. And life…is for the living. Now, go inside and have a drink to celebrate! Catch up and have a good time. I will stay out here and finish the grass.”
“Why don’t we go inside, and I’ll make us a pot of tea,” Kay suggested. She took my hand in hers, and we walked toward the house. I glanced over my shoulder at João. He stood and watched us with a lopsided smile and an expression on his face I couldn’t read. Then he winked and turned his attention to the lawn mower.
Thank you for having me! As always, it was fun playing with you.