Sunday, December 25, 2016

1st Day of Christmas Author Spotlight: Kate McMurray

Author Bio:
Kate McMurray is a nonfiction editor. Also, she is crafty (mostly knitting and sewing, but she also wields power tools), she plays the violin, and she dabbles in various other pursuits. She’s maybe a tiny bit obsessed with baseball. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with a presumptuous cat.


Devin December by Kate McMurray
A freak blizzard strands flight attendant Andy Weston at LaGuardia Airport on Thanksgiving. Tabloid reports about Hollywood It couple, Devin Delaney and Cristina Marino, breaking up in spectacular fashion keep Andy sane. And then Devin Delaney himself turns up at the gate Andy is working. Against all odds—and because there’s nothing else to do—Andy and Devin begin to talk, immediately connect, and, after Devin confesses the real reason he broke up with Cristina, have a magical night together snowed in at the airport. But the magic ends when Devin boards his flight home the next morning, and Andy assumes it’s over.

Then Devin turns up on his doorstep. Andy is game for a clandestine affair at first—who could turn down one of the hottest men on the planet? But he soon grows tired of being shoved in Devin’s closet. As Christmas approaches, it’s clear that this will never work unless Devin is willing to make some big changes. Devin has a holiday surprise in store—but will it be enough?

Such a Dance
When a vaudeville dancer meets a sexy mobster in a speakeasy for men, the sparks fly, the gin flows, the jazz sizzles—and the heat is on…

New York City, 1927.

Eddie Cotton is a talented song-and-dance man with a sassy sidekick, a crowd-pleasing act, and a promising future on Broadway. What he doesn’t have is someone to love. Being gay in an era of prohibition and police raids, Eddie doesn’t have many opportunities to meet men like himself—until he discovers a hot new jazz club for gentlemen of a certain bent...and sets eyes on the most seductive, and dangerous, man he’s ever seen.

Lane Carillo is a handsome young Sicilian who looks like Valentino—and works for the Mob. He’s never hidden his sexuality from his boss, which is why he was chosen to run a private night club for men. When Lane spots Eddie at the bar, it’s lust at first sight. Soon, the unlikely pair are falling hard and fast—in love. But when their whirlwind romance starts raising eyebrows all across town, Lane and Eddie have to decide if their relationship is doomed…or something special worth fighting for.

Original Review September 2016:
The Roaring 20s and Prohibition is a particular favorite era of my love of history so to find a romance that stayed true to the times in the M/M genre really hit all my buttons.  I really enjoy the connection between the big tough Mob guy Lane and the song-and-dance Eddie.  Lane may be a bit of a romantic at heart looking for that one special guy but he is certainly no pushover.  Eddie on the other hand may want fun but he's not looking for love.  The passion between these two definitely burn up the pages(or short-circuit your ereader) but it's not easy and you might be surprised just where or who the potholes in their journey come from.  For me, what really cemented the era was the secondary characters, from Eddie's partner to Lane's boss, the good and the bad, they all help the story and the main characters evolve without overshadowing the love story.  Such a Dance is simply put, an all around. completely satisifying read and great addition to my historical shelf.


The Stars that Tremble
Stars #1
Giovanni Boca was destined to go down in history as an opera legend until a vocal chord injury abruptly ended his career. Now he teaches voice lessons at a prestigious New York City music school. During auditions for his summer opera workshop, he finds his protégé in fourteen-year-old Emma McPhee. Just as intriguing to Gio is Emma's father Mike, a blue-collar guy who runs a business renovating the kitchens and bathrooms of New York's elite to finance his daughter's dream.

Mike’s partner was killed when Emma was a toddler, and Gio mourns the beautiful voice he will never have again, so coping with loss is something they have in common. Their initial physical attraction quickly grows to something more as each hopes to fill the gap that loss and grief has left in his life. Although Mike wonders if he can truly fit into Gio's upperclass world, their bond grows stronger. Then, trouble strikes from outside when the machinations of an unscrupulous stage mother threaten to tear Gio and Mike apart—and ruin Emma's bright future.

Out in the Field
**2nd Edition-First Edition published by Loose Id, 2012**

Matt Blanco is a legend on the Brooklyn Eagles, but time and injuries have taken their toll. With his career nearing its end, he’s almost made it to retirement without anyone learning his biggest secret: he’s gay in a profession not particularly known for its tolerance.

Iggy Rodriquez is the hot new rookie in town, landing a position in the starting lineup of the team of his dreams and playing alongside his idol, Matt Blanco. Iggy doesn’t think it can get any better, until an unexpected encounter in the locker room with Matt proves him wrong.

A relationship—and everything it could reveal—has never been in the cards for Matt, but Iggy has him rethinking his priorities. They fall hard for each other, struggling to make it through trades, endorsement deals, and the threat of retirement. Ultimately they will be faced with a choice: love or baseball?

Ten Days in August
From the Lower East Side to uptown Manhattan, a curious detective searches for clues on the sidewalks of New York—and finds a secret world of forbidden love that’s too hot to handle…

New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.

As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…

Original Review September 2016:
As those who follow my reviews will know, I am a HUGE historical buff and love historical fiction, so when Ten Days in August caught my eye it was a no brainer that I would give it a try.  I am so glad I did because it is an amazing read, the characters, the mystery, the romance, and the attention to historical detail, well any one of them would have had me hooked but when you have them all it's a spectacular ride to Reader Heaven.  The connection between Nicky and Hank may be instantaneous but that doesn't mean it will be easy, add in a killer and the heat wave, it will most definitely not be easy.  As a Wisconsinite from a small farming community, I understand and respect the power of Mother Nature, but to find her the main character in a book added to the authenticity of the era and trust me, the heat wave is a huge factor here because the heat can grind on you and make a tense situation volatile. I always love discovering a new author, I look forward to checking out Kate McMurray's backlist.


The Windup
Rainbow League #1
Ian ran screaming from New York City upon graduating from high school. A job offer too good to turn down has brought him back, but he plans to leave as soon as the job is up. In the meantime he lets an old friend talk him into joining the Rainbow League, New York’s LGBT amateur baseball league. Baseball turns out to be a great outlet for his anxiety, and not only because sexy teammate Ty has caught his eye.

Ty is like a duck on a pond—calm and laid-back on the surface, a churning mess underneath. In Ian, he’s found someone with whom he feels comfortable enough to share some of what’s going on beneath the surface. The only catch is that Ian is dead set on leaving the city as soon as he can. Ty works up a plan to convince Ian that New York is, in fact, the greatest city in the world. But when Ian receives an offer for a job overseas, Ty needs a new plan: convince Ian that home is where Ty is.

Devin December
IT STARTED with a breakup and a blizzard.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving found me where I always was before a major travel holiday: manning a desk in the D concourse at LaGuardia Airport.

After a few years of working for Northeast Airlines, I had finally finished the flight-attendant training program, but apparently during the biggest travel season of the year, they didn’t trust the newbie enough to let me actually do the job for which I was trained. Thus I was stuck on desk duty just as I had been for the past three Thanksgivings. I supposed it was better than working a ticketing desk; at least out here on the concourse, there was a break between flights, rather than the endless parade of people with overstuffed luggage complaining about the bag fees.

There was indeed a break between flights when my fellow gate agent, Sarah, ran over all giddy, waving a magazine at me. “Andy! Andy, you have to see this.”

I was trying to watch the weather report on the TV over the seating area. Apparently nature was planning to have her revenge on Thanksgiving travelers by sending a nor’easter our way. On the day before Thanksgiving.

“Did you see this forecast?” I said to Sarah.

She waved dismissively. “Dude, whatever. All the weather forecasts predict the apocalypse these days. The blizzard of the century was predicted last week and all we got was some rain.”

That was true. The video footage of snow blanketing Chicago was persuasive, but we’d been enjoying a fairly mild November so far, temperatures well above forty degrees nearly every day. If that kept up, we’d have a wet travel day, but nothing catastrophic. I turned my attention back to Sarah. “What’s up?”

She flipped open the magazine—one of those tabloid-y celebrity-gossip rags—and showed me a picture. It was a paparazzi photo of Devin Delaney walking around New York City in an ugly puffy jacket, his square jaw recognizable even though his eyes were hidden by big aviator sunglasses. Dear Lord. Even in that ugly coat he was smoking hot. If I had still been a teenager, I would have cut out pictures of him and taped them to my bedroom walls so I could stare at his handsome visage as I drifted off to sleep. I imagined it would make my dreams sweeter.

Wait, Sarah was trying to tell me something. I looked at the whole spread. On the other side of the page was a similar paparazzi photo of Cristina Marino, Devin Delaney’s girlfriend. The two of them were Hollywood’s current It Couple, complete with a romance for the ages. They’d met three years before on the set of the epic period piece movie about doomed lovers that they filmed together, but their romance was not doomed. It was legendary. Gag inducing, if you asked me, but Sarah always got all starry-eyed when she talked about it.

So, whatever, old news, except that…. “Wait, Devin and Cristina split?” If I’d had a beverage, I would have issued a spit-take.

“I know,” said Sarah. “Can you believe it?”

Why I cared about a celebrity couple, I could not have said, but for a brief moment, it was like my own parents had announced their divorce. My heart sank. “That sucks. I can’t believe it.”

“It was on the news and everything yesterday. They issued a statement about how they just want to be left alone in this time of blah, blah.” Sarah rolled her eyes. “But I didn’t think you’d heard yet.”

“Yeah, I worked a double yesterday. I didn’t even turn my TV or computer on when I got home last night.” I’d just fallen into bed and then rolled out again in the morning to come to work. It was a glamorous, jet-setting life I led.

Sarah nodded. “And now nobody cares because there’s going to be a snowmageddon or whatever.” She watched the TV monitor for a moment. “Oh, sure, two feet. It’ll probably be two inches.”

“If it does snow, we’ll need riot gear tomorrow. You’re working, right?”


“Good. I don’t think I could get through the pre-Thanksgiving shift without you.”

SO WE were back the very next day. Right before my shift started, I stood at the window near the gate where I was stationed and watched the huge planes lumber down the tarmac. It had smelled like snow outside as I’d struggled through my already difficult commute—one made worse by the tide of people going to the airport. This seemed like a bad omen to me, but I tried to take it to heart that of late, so few of the predicted storms had amounted to anything. A few flakes fell from the sky but nothing too bad. A few flights had been preemptively canceled, but none by my airline.

I walked over to the desk, where Sarah sat on a stool and fiddled with the computer.

“Word from on high is that we should expect flight delays because of the mess in Chicago,” Sarah said.

I’d heard Chicago’s runways had finally been plowed, but the storm had caused so much chaos the day before they were still trying to get everything back on track. Northeast Airlines had a hub at O’Hare, so backups there tended to cause backups in New York.

But Sarah and I were at the gate that mostly ran direct flights to popular vacation destinations—Orlando, New Orleans, and Los Angeles—where everything was currently sunny and beautiful. As long as weather didn’t impede the flight paths, most of those flights would go. In fact, our first flight of the day was to Orlando, and everything was set to go on time.

Time passed the way it always does in the airport, with sudden flurries and bursts of activity followed by long, dragging downtime. Our first two flights took off without a hitch, which was pretty amazing all things considered, but soon the seating area near the gate flooded with parents and small children and strollers that should have been checked. We had to start tagging carry-ons because some families skirted the checked-bag fees by carrying on a million little bags. Sarah and I worked like a well-oiled machine, and we managed to get everyone on that third airplane. I watched it taxi out to the runway and realized the snow was actually coming down now.

“A dusting,” Sarah said dismissively as the flakes fell.

I was pretty sure she was wrong. The sky was overcast and ominous, the temperature shown on the TV screen was right around 32°F, and snow was starting to accumulate on the tarmac and on the wings of the plane parked at the next gate.

The phone at the gate rang.

Sarah answered it while I continued to watch the runway turn white. Passengers were getting restless behind me, fidgeting and looking at the snow fall softly outside the big windows.

“Excuse me,” someone said behind me.

I turned and saw a middle-aged woman. “How can I help you, ma’am?” I said. I was ever the service professional.

“Will this flight get canceled?”

“I don’t believe so, but—”

Sarah put the phone down and grabbed my arm to pull me away from the woman. “Twenty-minute delay,” she said. “The plane out of Orlando had to take a different route. Apparently conditions are actually worse south of us.” A moment later the board changed to reflect this news and Sarah used the intercom to announce it. A collective groan went through the crowd of assembled passengers. A baby started howling for good measure.

This was going to be a long day.

I went back behind the desk; people were starting to congregate to ask us questions. Three different people yelled at me about how they had to get to their families, and didn’t I realize it was Thanksgiving? Part of me wanted to point out that I would not be headed home to my family in Ohio because I needed the overtime pay for rent on my shitty apartment in Queens, but I kept quiet. I was not a human being with a family of my own. I was just a smiling face. My only function in life was to mollify these people.

Days like this made me question why I’d thought flight-attendant school was a good idea. I’d thought it would net me a raise, which it did, and I’d get to travel, which would be fun. The hours were more flexible. But it also meant being trapped with customers like this in a metal tube for multihour increments, catering to their every wish.

I liked customers most days, but not on major holiday weekends.

The plane that would take these people to LA finally pulled up to the gate. The exiting passengers looked harried. A storm like this caused the kind of turbulence that would have had everyone reaching for the airsickness bags. Outside, the snow was coming down even harder. There was a good inch on the tarmac now.

“How are we doing on standbys?” I asked Sarah. Really, anyone trying to fly standby on the day before Thanksgiving was on a fool’s quest, but every now and then we had a free seat.

Not so this flight. Sarah said, “Booked solid. Everyone checked in, too.”

There was some mild confusion as the rest of the departing passengers came off the plane and the flight crews exchanged places. I waved to Captain O’Rourke, a hunky dreamboat of a man with a stubbly chin and a bright smile. He grinned at me and saluted as he walked through the gate door.

Just then, a man in sunglasses walked up to the desk. “Please tell me you’ve got a seat on this flight.” As I started to shake my head, he added, “I have to get out of this fucking city.”

“Sorry, sir,” I said. I looked at the computer. “There’s another flight to LA leaving from this gate at three fifteen.”

He frowned. “Can you get me on it?”

“Hard to say. It’s booked, but if someone doesn’t show….”

The guy grunted and took off his sunglasses.

And oh mother of all that is holy, I was staring at Devin Delaney. Right there. In the flesh. Sexy as all get-out.

He eyed me warily as he slipped his sunglasses into his shirt pocket, probably realizing I’d recognized him.

At first I wasn’t completely sure it was actually Devin Delaney. I mean, what were the odds? It could have been a really, really hot guy who just looked a lot like Devin Delaney. I was thinking about making a “You must get that all the time” flirty play when I noticed Sarah suddenly go still at the edge of my peripheral vision. So she saw him, too.

Also, he didn’t look like he was in the mood to be played with, so I didn’t flirt.

“I’d be happy to put you on the standby list for the three-fifteen flight,” I said, “if I could just see your old boarding pass, Mr.….”

He sighed and pulled a crinkled boarding pass out of his pocket. “Delaney,” he said.

I hadn’t even been sure Devin Delaney was the actor’s real name. Apparently it was, though, because it was printed on his boarding pass, plain as day. Holy mother. Devin Delaney. Standing in front of me.

It seemed inappropriate to ask for an autograph.

I went to work instead. His actual boarding pass indicated he was booked on a flight at nine thirty that night. We’d been dealing with this sort of thing all day, people trying to fly standby on earlier flights to avoid the storm, so this was not an unprecedented situation. It also meant some seats had opened up on later flights, although I watched the computer as Sarah put the woman standing on her line into the last coach seat.

“It looks like there is one first-class seat available on the three fifteen,” I informed Devin Delaney. “There’s an additional fee, though.”

He whipped out his credit card. “Fine. Book it.”

Ah, so this was how it was going to go. Celebrities never lived up to what you imagined them to be. Devin Delaney was devastatingly handsome, but he was also brusque and probably used to getting what he wanted with a wave of his black AmEx. All right.

I wondered why he hadn’t been flying first class all along. Surely a celebrity of his caliber would not be slumming it with the rabble in coach.

But no answers would be forthcoming just then. I printed him a new boarding pass and invited him to relax and have a seat. He jittered a little, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, like he was agitated or worried about something. I suspected he, like every other person in the airport, was anxious to get where he was going before the storm hit—he lived in LA as far as I knew, so he was probably rushing home to his family—or maybe he was distraught because of his breakup with Cristina Marino.

Like I knew him and could even guess what was going through his mind.

Well, either way, he stepped away from the desk, slid his sunglasses back on, and sat at the end of a row of connected seats. He pulled out a phone and started playing with it.

I did my best to ignore him for the next forty-five minutes as we got this flight boarded and off the ground. I had so many passengers competing for my attention that I did forget Devin Delaney was sitting a mere ten feet away from me until we closed the gate door and I accidentally glanced his way.

Sarah looked at me, her eyes wide. We ducked behind the desk and she said, “Is that…?”


“Holy shit.”

It wasn’t the first time we’d dealt with a celebrity. About once a week, in fact, we had some high-profile passenger marching down the concourse. On Tuesday, we’d had a big-deal celebrity chef fly first class out of this very gate. But whenever someone I admired—or lusted after, let’s be honest—showed up at my desk, I always got starstruck.

So despite the fact that Devin Delaney, who had now pulled the collar of his leather jacket up to shield his face from onlookers, was just another in a series of famous people I’d seen in the sitting area just that week, I had no idea how to act around him.

I did nothing. Sarah and I took a break to grab lunch, and when we came back, he was still there. He had the big aviator sunglasses on in addition to the popped collar, and he was staring intently at his phone. He looked so shady and mysterious that he was basically drawing even more attention to himself.

I walked over to the window, looking outside for the first time in almost an hour.

It was bad.

I supposed if one did not live in a major city, one might view a blanketing of snow as quaint or picturesque. When I was a kid, snow held the potential for fun and a day off from school. But in New York, large quantities of snow were often a harbinger of chaos. I looked out the window and saw whiteout blizzard conditions and about eight inches of snow on the tarmac, and I flipped right out.

“The last time it snowed like this, the city shut down the subway,” Sarah observed.

“So not helpful.”

Sarah pressed a hand against the glass and peered through it. Then the phone at the desk rang.

“I don’t want to answer that,” I said, thinking about the assembled passengers.

“Maybe we’re just waiting out the worst of it.” Sarah walked over to the desk and picked up the phone. The monologue on her end was mostly just her saying, “Yes, I understand, yes, okay.” She put the phone down and glanced at me before going to the computer. Then she lifted the intercom receiver to her mouth.

“Attention passengers of Flight 3872 to Los Angeles. Due to weather, this flight has been canceled. Please line up in an orderly fashion at the desk so that we can make arrangements to book you on another flight.”

The wind outside was now howling so loudly I could hear it in the noisy terminal. After one particularly dramatic gust, the windows rattled in their frames. When I looked outside again, all of the runway workers in orange vests were gone.

Oh, this was really bad.

Such a Dance
Eddie took a cautious step forward and was immediately pulled into a room full of hot air and cool tempers. Everything was draped in red velvet and blue fabric. Men around him danced and sang and cavorted. It was everything he expected and nothing like he could have anticipated.

He pulled down the brim of his fedora, took a look around, and tried to get a handle on the situation. Did anyone recognize him? It didn’t seem so; his arrival was unheralded and no one so much as spared him a glance. Was there anyone he recognized? Not for certain. A few faces seemed vaguely familiar, like they might have been stagehands or people he worked with at the theater. No one whose name he could recall. Did anyone there catch his eye? Wasn’t that the bigger question?

There was one man, sitting by himself at a table in the corner, smoking a cigarette. He seemed to be surveying the room as well. He occasionally put the cigarette in an ashtray and picked up a highball glass full of God knew what and took a slow sip. He was remarkably handsome, that was what Eddie noticed, with a shock of black hair on top of his head, dark eyes, and a shadow of stubble along his chin. He was athletic-looking, too; thin, but with broad shoulders. He had olive skin, like maybe he was Italian or Greek. He was a sheik, Eddie thought, like Valentino.

Eddie found himself drawn to this stranger for reasons he couldn’t articulate beyond that he liked the man’s face, liked his masculine carriage, liked the way everything around him seemed to spell man—and he wanted to keep looking at that face for a while, wanted to see what the man’s hair would feel like under his fingers, wanted to know what it would be like to kiss and taste this man.

Which of course was impossible. Or was it? There was not a single woman in this club. Eddie suspected that if he hadn’t known the password, he never would have been admitted. But this man was seated alone at a table. Maybe his date had gone to the men’s room. Maybe he was only there to look.

The man looked up and made eye contact with Eddie. He crooked his finger. Come here, he beckoned.

So Eddie went.

The man kicked out the other chair at his table. “Have a seat,” he said.

“Hello,” said Eddie as he slowly sat.

The man took a drag on his cigarette and squinted at Eddie. “Do I know you from somewhere?”

Eddie considered asking if the man had ever been to the Doozies, but then the man would know for sure who he was. And Eddie was certain he had not met this man face-to-face before. This was someone he would have remembered. “I don’t think so.”

The man put his cigarette on the ashtray and took a sip of his drink. “You look a little lost.”

“I’m not.”

“You were looking at me.” The man picked the cigarette back up and took a long drag. The action drew a lot of attention to the man’s mouth, his thin but soft-looking lips, and Eddie couldn’t stop himself from continuing to look.

He blinked. He couldn’t figure this man out. Was he dressing down Eddie? Did he really recognize him? Was he a mobster who would take offense at Eddie looking? “You’re nice to look at,” he said with no small measure of defiance in his voice.

He braced himself for the impact of the man’s retaliation—for Eddie then recognized the small circular pin on the man’s lapel as marking him as a member of some kind of Mob organization—but the man laughed. “Well, thank you,” he said, still chuckling. “Are you sure we’ve never met? You look terribly familiar.”

“I’m sure.”

The man smothered the stub of his cigarette in the ashtray. He extracted a slim silver case from his pocket, opened it, and displayed a neat row of cigarettes. “You want?”

Eddie shook his head.

The man shrugged and selected one. He slid the case back into his pocket and picked up a matchbook from the table. He looked right at Eddie as he lit the cigarette. Then, as casually as Eddie had seen anyone do anything, he shook the flame off the match and said, “We don’t get many celebrities in here, Mr. Cotton.”

The Stars that Tremble
Chapter 1
THE girl had the voice of an angel.

Gio could say that with some authority, since there had been a time when many people had said the same about him.

But this girl. She was tiny, maybe four foot eleven, and very fine-boned, and her application indicated she was fourteen years old even though she barely looked a day over ten. Gio eyed the row of parents sitting in folding chairs or on the floor off to the side of the studio and tried to guess which of them this girl belonged to. Probably an overbearing helicopter mom. There were a dozen of those in the crowd of parents. Usually, you could spot the one who belonged to the auditioning kid because she sat forward in her seat and mouthed the words along with her child. But, no, in this case, all of the moms looked on either with disinterest or in naked shock that such a big sound had come out of such a tiny girl.

Gio was sympathetic to the latter feeling.

Although, there was one person in the crowd of parents who caught Gio’s attention, a handsome man who seemed a little out of place. He was very handsome. He had messy brown hair and a square jaw, wide shoulders atop a strong body, and he wore gray trousers and a blue button-front shirt as if they were jeans and a T-shirt. Gio wished he hadn’t noticed the man, because now he’d be distracted through the rest of the auditions.

But back to the matter at hand.

“Miss McPhee,” he said. “That was really lovely. Would you indulge me by singing that last part again, starting with ‘Tu che di gel sei cinta’? Okay?”

She nodded and launched back into the Puccini aria. Her Italian was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect, which indicated to Gio that she’d learned the aria by listening to recordings and mimicking rather than really understanding and learning to correctly pronounce the words, but he could work on that. Because this girl was it. She would be his protégé, his muse, the next great star of the Metropolitan Opera!

And she was only fourteen.

Tiny Emma McPhee finished singing. The faculty panel, Gio included, applauded her enthusiastically. She bowed and moved back to the area where the other potential students of the great Giovanni Boca’s opera workshop were waiting. She glanced toward the crowd of parents, probably looking for her mother, but then she took her seat and chatted with another girl.

“Have you ever?” said Dacia, who was sitting next to him. She leaned close and blocked the parents’ view of them by holding up a piece of paper. Her eyes were wide.

“She’s mine,” Gio said.

“I thought you might say that.” Her expression turned wry. “You want her to be la tua stella.”

“Sì,” he said. “Ha la voce.” Gio knew without a doubt this girl had the voice to be a star.

Dacia nodded. She threw her long, dark-gray hair over her shoulder and softly crooned a few notes in her smoky mezzo voice. She put the paper down and said, “Avanti. Let us continue.”

The next hour passed the way these auditions always passed: there was a mix of kids aged thirteen to seventeen, some of whom were terrible, some of whom had a bit of vocal talent, and some of whom had the raw material but needed refinement. Emma McPhee remained the only shoo-in for the workshop, although Gio had made a list of potentials and had pretty much decided on his twelve students by the time the auditions were winding down. The other faculty members on the audition committee always forced Gio into the song and dance with head shots, vague remembrances of the performances from people with bad recall, and usually Sam, the violin teacher, said lecherously of some talentless girl, “But she’s just so beautiful,” as if beauty had ever actually been linked to skill. Gio indulged them because he figured he shouldn’t bite the hand that fed him, since the Olcott School continued to employ him every year, but the final decision was still his.

He tuned out a particularly bad audition by mentally listing who he wanted in his class. He’d scrawled notes on his pad about why he wanted each one in case Sam or Dacia or even Jules, the quiet pianist, somehow thought a teenager with middling talent belonged in the most prestigious workshop in the city for young singers. And then, mercifully, the last audition was over.

Dacia stood and announced that the faculty was going to meet for about an hour to discuss and then the accepted singers would be posted on the bulletin board outside of Gio’s studio. She welcomed them to stick around or go grab a bite to eat and come back.

Gio stood, ready to shuffle into his office for an hour of nonsense, but he caught little Emma McPhee jogging across the room and then, much to Gio’s surprise, throwing her arms around the handsome man who had been distracting Gio for the better part of the audition process.


Gio considered walking right up to the man and informing him that his daughter was definitely getting a spot in the workshop, just to get a closer look, but Dacia hooked her hand around his elbow and pulled him away.

A miserable forty-five minutes ensued in which three kids were obviously in, six were mostly agreed on without controversy, and three were furiously debated. Gio wanted a sixteen-year-old tenor with a voice like honey, but Sam wanted a soprano from New Jersey because, of course, “She’s just so pretty.”

“So we’re clear,” Gio said, “this is Giovanni Boca’s opera workshop, not Collective Olcott Music Faculty’s workshop. In my opinion, yes, Julie is a very pretty girl, but Tyler has the real potential here. His voice is a little thin right now, but he has a good sense of pitch and rhythm, and I can work with that. Julie was a half step sharp through most of her audition.” Luckily, Dacia and Jules sided with Gio, so he got his way in the end.

Needing some air outside of his stuffy office, Gio volunteered to go hang up the list. His assistant typed it up and printed it, and Gio took it and a pushpin to the bulletin board outside of his studio. About two-thirds of the prospective students and their parents were milling around in the hallway.

Gio spotted Emma McPhee with that man—her father, presumably, although there wasn’t a great deal of resemblance—and he smiled at the guy, who just looked back, biting his lip. There was something endearing about that. Surely he knew how much talent his daughter—or whoever she was—had.

He cleared his throat and said, “If your name is on this list, my assistant Angela will be e-mailing you or your parents with a class schedule and syllabus within the next forty-eight hours. Everyone else, better luck next time.”

He posted the list and barely got out of the way before the horde descended. He managed to catch Emma’s attention and crooked his finger, inviting her to follow him down the hall. The man trailed after her.

“I wish I had spared you the wait,” Gio said, which got him two horrified expressions in return. He laughed softly. He probably could have said that more nicely. “You were in from the moment you opened your mouth. I haven’t heard a voice like that in quite some time. I look forward to working with you, Miss McPhee.”

Her eyes were like quarters. “What? Really? I got in?”

“Yes. And classes start on the twenty-eighth. I expect you to be there.”

She turned to the man. “Daddy, did you hear that? I got in! I got in!” The words came out in a squeal. She jumped up and down a few times.

By now, the assembled crowd had gotten to the board, and there were assorted whoops of joy and groans of disappointment. A couple of the parents gave “buck up” speeches, or said something like, “We’ll try again next year,” although Gio knew some of those kids would never be good enough. Perhaps that was a harsh way to think of it, but he’d been around music long enough to know that talent was not something that could be taught.

Pushing that aside, Gio extended his hand to the man. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Your daughter is an extraordinary talent.”

The man blushed and took his hand in a firm handshake. “I’m Mike McPhee.”

“Giovanni Boca, but I suppose you knew that.”

“Emma is thrilled, obviously,” Mike said. “We’re really honored just to audition. It means a lot that you see so much in her.” Gio detected a local accent—Brooklyn, maybe.

“It really was a splendid audition. Does this kind of musical talent run in the family? Do you sing?”

Mike shook his head. “No, not at all. Don’t know where this voice came from. I don’t know much about opera at all, either, but Emma loves it. Her voice teacher—do you know Tina Moretz from the Academy of Music?—well, Ms. Moretz thought Emma’s voice would be good for opera, so that’s what she’s been studying for two years.”

Mike’s voice quivered a little, as if he were nervous. There was something about the man that softened Gio’s heart. “I know Tina Moretz a little. She’s a good teacher.” Gio glanced at Mike’s hand. No wedding ring. “Is there a singer in the family? A wife? A husband, even?”

Mike frowned and shook his head. He briefly looked very sad. There was a story there, for certain.

“Nah,” Mike said, “just me and Emma.” He put an arm around his daughter and hugged her close. He was not a small man—just above six feet, if Gio’s guess was correct, and he was on the bulkier side, though up close it looked like the bulk was mostly muscle—so little Emma’s head rested near his armpit.

The rhythmic clack of heels walking on the linoleum told Gio that Dacia was coming to fetch him. “I have a faculty meeting in twenty minutes, or I’d chat more,” Gio said to the McPhees. “It was wonderful to meet you, though, and I will see you in class.”

“Yes, definitely!” Emma said.

MIKE had been at this dad thing for fourteen years, and the one thing he’d figured out for sure was that parenting involved a lot of multitasking. Thus, the night after the audition, he was watching the Yankees game while also ironing Emma’s school uniform while also keeping an ear on her giddy phone conversations, because she apparently had to call half the planet to tell them she got into Giovanni Boca’s workshop.

Mike did some quick calculating. Four more days of school; then she got a long weekend off before starting the opera workshop. Maybe they could do something special that weekend.

He was still a little surprised that Emma had gotten into the opera workshop. Ms. Moretz had assured him that Emma had what it took, but Mike had tempered his expectations, not wanting to get Emma’s hopes up too high and risk disappointment. Turned out his fretting had been for nothing, thank goodness.

And that Giovanni Boca was a trip, wasn’t he? Really good-looking guy in a sleek Italian way, with silver-flecked black hair and a bit of a barrel chest. Mike reasoned he’d have to have a chest like that to produce the sounds he had. Emma had shown him a few online videos, and Boca had been even broader back when he sang, a good thirty pounds heavier than he looked now. The audio quality on those videos hadn’t been great, but the sound was still incredible, a voice unlike any Mike had heard before.

Emma had said Boca had lost his voice a few years ago. He had some kind of throat problem and they’d done surgery. Now he couldn’t sing anymore and his voice certainly had a raspy quality Mike hadn’t expected (though he’d had the slight Italian accent Mike had expected). Mike supposed that was why he was teaching.

Emma burst out of her bedroom. “Daddy? Are you working Monday?”

“Yep. Finishing up that Upper West Side job.”

“Can Isobel come over after school?”

“Sure, sweetie. You’re not going to have any school work this late in the year, are you?”

“No.” She rolled her eyes and lifted her phone to her ear. “Izzy? Dad says it’s okay.” She walked back into her room and started talking rapidly with her best friend.

Emma was a good kid. She hadn’t turned out the way Mike had thought she would. At first, he’d tried teaching her about his interests. He took her to baseball games and gave her lots of puzzles and blocks to play with. He wanted to encourage her to be athletic, but she’d always been small for her age and the bigger kids pushed her around. But then one day she’d started singing. So he revised his plan and decided he wanted her to be herself above everything. When she’d wanted to quit sports and take voice lessons instead, he’d agreed. The singing took him out of his comfort zone, into a world he didn’t know anything about, but he was willing to go there for Emma.

It had been tough to know what to do in those days. The single-dad thing was not what he’d signed on for. He’d been all of twenty-three years old when he’d let Evan talk him into adopting a baby. He’d always wanted a big family, so it hadn’t taken much work on Evan’s part, granted, plus they’d thought they’d have to wait years before an agency found them a child. Then this pregnant teenaged girl had picked Mike and Evan within weeks of their completing the paperwork.

But four years after that, Evan was dead and Mike was trying to figure out how to raise his sweet, beautiful, high-energy daughter on his own. His relationship with his own parents was dicey and none of his siblings had had kids at the time, so most of the time, he had to forego advice and just do what seemed right, what his instinct told him to do.

He was pretty sure he got it wrong a lot of the time, and yet Emma was becoming a smart, well-behaved teenager. He would have to beat the boys off with sticks once she started high school in the fall, but that was a mountain he’d climb when he got to it. In the meantime, she seemed happy to practice her singing and hang out with her girlfriends, and most of the time she did well in school. And now she’d been accepted to the best opera workshop for teenagers in the city. So he must have done something right.

She came back out of her bedroom, off the phone now, and threw herself on the sofa with a huff. “Who’s winning?” she asked.

“Yanks are up two, bottom of the fifth.”

She yawned and settled into the cushions. “What did you think of Giovanni Boca?”

“I think you’ve got your work cut out for you, kiddo. Ms. Moretz said he’s a hard-ass of a teacher.”

“He’s the best, though. One of his students from a couple of years ago is in a Met production this season. She’s one of the youngest actresses to get a starring role.”


“I know. That could be me, Dad.”

“It could be, yeah. Or you could finish school.”

“Well, yeah, duh. I’m going to get into Juilliard.”

He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “You haven’t even started high school. How can you be so sure?”

“I’m sure. Giovanni Boca’s workshop is my ticket.”

He chuckled, admiring her confidence. He’d wondered sometimes if he thought so much of her talent because he was her father, if having raised her had biased him. But now that others saw that magic in her too, he knew he hadn’t been mistaken. She could very well go to Juilliard and sing at the Met and tour Europe and all of those things.

“Plus, he’s kind of cute, don’t you think?” she asked, her expression a little dreamy.

Mike burst into laughter. “Yeah, sweetheart, I guess he is.”

Out in the Field
ALL BASEBALL players have OCD. That was the only explanation, Matt Blanco thought, for all the pregame ritual. He carefully went through his home-game routine: he closed his locker and tapped the door twice; he fiddled with the collar of the T-shirt he had on under his uniform; he touched the wall in the hallway leading out of the locker room. As he walked toward the dugout, he caught sight of June Redstone, the elderly widow of a former star of the team, and leaned toward her as he passed; she dutifully kissed his cheek.

He heard the din of the crowd roaring as he got closer to the field. The rise in volume was probably due to Matt’s teammate Jefferson Jones jogging over to the bull pen to warm up. Normally Matt would have trotted out to the field and waved, but today he had other things on his mind. Namely his new teammate.

Matt was trying really hard not to think about his new teammate.

He sneaked into the dugout and pulled on his cap. The new guy was nowhere in sight, luckily. Shortstop Manuel Cruz sauntered over and plopped down on the bench, where he kissed the thin gold bracelet on his wrist, part of his own pregame ritual. That completed, he grinned at Matt. “You’re out here a little early,” he said.

“Eh. Warm-up was done sooner than usual. I figured I’d come and look at my adoring fans.”

“Sure,” said Cruz. “Did you hear about Miller?”

“No. What about Miller?”

Cruz leaned back, his smile smug. “As of Monday, he’ll be wearing a Red Sox uniform.”

“Oh fuck, no.” Matt didn’t especially like Evan Miller, but he was a terrific third baseman with a pretty high batting average.

“They took him and a handful of Triple-A guys in exchange for Rodriguez.”


And speak of the devil, who should appear in the dugout just then but Ignacio Rodriguez, apparently the Brooklyn Eagles’ new starting third baseman. It was his first time in the Eagles’ blue-and-white home-game uniform, but he wore it like he’d been born in it.

Matt had attended the big press conference the day before. He’d learned two important pieces of information: first, Rodriquez had been batting above .400 when he’d been in the minors, playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox, which was probably why he’d been such a hot commodity when it came time to trade players; and second, he was about the best-looking man Matt had ever set eyes on, if you liked your men Latin and young—which Matt did. Although, man, this guy was young. He also had close-cropped black hair, dark skin about the same color as Matt took his coffee, a long nose, a wide mouth, and a tight body. When Rodriguez grinned, light seemed to bounce off his teeth.

The stats were good. The other thing was a huge problem.

Cruz leaned in and whispered, “What do you think of the new kid?”

The new kid was talking to Bill Haverman, so Matt felt safe offering an opinion. “Good numbers, if you buy the sabermetrics.” It wasn’t always enough to have good numbers, though. Maybe that was an old-school opinion, but Matt’s experience bore it out. Players with good numbers didn’t work well with some teams. If Rodriguez bombed, it wouldn’t be the first time the Eagles had traded for an ace who ultimately had an abysmal season.

“That’s something,” said Cruz. “I talked to him yesterday. He seems like a nice kid. Also, Mistry’s finally off the DL.”

“Oh, I hadn’t heard that either.”

“Dude. Where have you been all day?”


“Everything okay?”

“Dandy. Ain’t nothing wrong with me except that I’m an old man.” That and his knee had been sore all week, but he wasn’t eager to volunteer that information.

“Good to hear, I guess.” Cruz patted Matt’s thigh.

Terry Wistler, the batting coach, walked over and glared at Cruz. “Focus” was all he said before he moved on to something else.

Matt looked at Cruz, who shrugged. “I was sloppy yesterday,” he said. “So what did you end up doing last night?”

“Friends of mine had a party,” Matt said. Cruz didn’t need to know that at said party Matt had met a hot guy who knew absolutely nothing about baseball. Matt had then taken the man to a hotel room in Brooklyn he’d reserved just in case. It pained him a little that he couldn’t say this to Cruz, who was probably his closest friend on the team after pitcher Roger May.

Roger wandered into the dugout then. Matt nodded at him. Cruz said, “Sounds fun. You get laid?”

“I got laid,” Matt said. He grinned.

Cruz thought sex threw him off his game, so he stayed celibate most of the season. He made exceptions for special occasions—during the All-Star break, the night he’d hit his two hundredth home run—but he stuck to that for the most part. His abstinence, however, did not keep him from getting the scoop from everyone else. For a straight man, Cruz was a terrible gossip.

“And you, sir?” Cruz said to Roger. “You and your lady friend have a good night?”

“Lauren and I are married now,” Roger said. “She’s not my lady friend. She’s my wife.”

“You pitching tonight?” Matt asked.

“Nope. I’m starting tomorrow.”

While Cruz and Roger shot the shit, Matt looked around. Rodriguez pulled his batting helmet out of its slot and weighed it in his hands. He put it back. He seemed nervous. As unofficial team captain, Matt knew it was his duty to go try to calm down the new guy, to be friendly and welcoming. But that would involve actually talking to Rodriguez.

Besides, just then Haverman started barking orders. For all intents and purposes, the game had begun.

FROM A practical standpoint, this game was no different from the thousands of others Iggy had played. He stood at third, gazing out at the landscape before him, noting where each of his teammates stood, noting how this batter tended to hit the ball. It was easy and familiar.

And yet it wasn’t. For years he’d dreamed of just getting into the stands of FSB Stadium. Now he was on the field.

Not only that, but Matt Blanco—legendary Eagles first baseman Matt Blanco, the greatest player who had ever played the game as far as Iggy was concerned—was standing just on the other side of the infield. And he kept shooting Iggy looks.

Iggy couldn’t figure out what any of those looks meant. Had he done something to offend Blanco? Was he this surly with all new players? Iggy worried briefly that Blanco might know something about him that he didn’t want anyone to know yet, but he couldn’t figure out how that could be the case. Iggy maybe hadn’t been as discreet as he could have been, but he didn’t think anyone knew his secret.

The inning ended, and Iggy jogged back toward the dugout. Given the way the top of the order had been batting, he thought it unlikely he’d be up that inning, so he took a deep breath and tried to relax.

But then Matt Blanco walked up to him and wrecked any hope of that. Because the thing was, not only was Blanco Iggy’s idol, he was incredibly handsome, even more so close up than Iggy had imagined. He had olive skin and dark hair—classically Italian good looks—as well as a square jaw lined with stubble. He looked relaxed and casual, like he was perfectly in control of the game.

“Hey, Rodriguez. Nice play against Jackson,” Blanco said.

“Uh, thanks.” God. Blanco’s dark eyes were incredible, much more intense than they seemed in photographs. And Iggy had looked at a lot of photos of Matt Blanco over the years.

“I, um. I mean….” Blanco took off his cap and ran a hand through his flattened hair. He seemed… tongue-tied. Nervous. But how was that possible? This man was one of the greatest ballplayers there had ever been. Iggy was just a rookie. “It’s always weird adjusting to a new team.”

“It is, yeah. Although you haven’t had to in a long time, eh?”

Blanco shrugged. “I guess not. Anyway. Nice work. Welcome to the team.” Then he turned and walked toward the shelves where the batting helmets were stored. Iggy might have felt insulted for the abrupt end in the conversation, but he realized Blanco was up second that inning.

Everyone who knew Iggy had assured him that playing for a big-market team in a city with a voracious tabloid industry would be okay if he just kept his head down and didn’t draw attention to himself. What was it his friend Cary had said? “Gay men have been playing baseball for a hundred years, and no one’s ever been the wiser.”

So there was no way Matt Blanco knew Iggy’s big secret. Unless he’d cottoned on to the fact that Iggy was seriously in lust. Iggy had a hard time keeping his gaze away from the man, who was now in the on-deck circle taking practice swings with a weighted bat. Iggy ducked behind Manuel Cruz so he could better covertly watch Blanco’s arm muscles strain and stretch as he swung.

He turned away. Lusting wouldn’t do him any good. Matt Blanco was so far out of his league, it wasn’t worth wasting his thoughts on him. It was better to focus on the game. No matter how horny he was or how much he missed sex, there was too much at stake to risk it.

He chastised himself for thinking about sex in the middle of a game. Instead he found a spot on the bench and watched Blanco bat, which effectively put his attention back on the field.

Ten Days in August
A small black dog with wild eyes ran up Broadway, snapping and snarling at passersby. As women shrieked and men hopped out of the way, a cry of "Mad dog!" echoed through the crowds out strolling, trying to find relief on a hot day.

The saloonkeepers and police officers from City Hall to Houston Street knew Jerry the dog; he would wag his tail and beg for scraps and get a head pat before jogging from one saloon to the next. Most considered him a harmless little tramp. But today, something was wrong. He ran for the open front door of a bank, alternately panting and growling. When the attendant tried to kick Jerry out of the way, Jerry bit his foot and ran inside. Someone said, "Look out, Mac! He may be mad!"

The panic inside the bank caught the attention of bulky Officer Giblin, who hauled out his gun and eyed the little dog. Jerry's gaze darted around the room as he slobbered all over the floor.

Officer Giblin brandished his gun, but didn't want to do anything rash. He poked at the dog with his nightstick, trying to ascertain if he really was mad. The dog snapped and lunged for the nightstick. That was all the evidence Giblin needed. He aimed his gun.

"Not in here!" one of the clerks shouted. "Think of the ladies present!"

Giblin nodded. "All right, you mangy rascal." He chased Jerry out of the bank. Once they reached the street, Giblin aimed his gun and fired. The little dog rolled over dead instantly. The crowd cheered.

Hank Brandt watched from a few feet away with some amusement as Officer Lewis ran across the street. He fired his own gun into the dog's head.

"Thank you, Lewis," said Hank, pulling off his hat and wiping the sweat from his brow with his handkerchief. "He was just as dead before you fired, but we appreciate your attention to detail."

Lewis thrust out his chest. "I just dispatched with a mad dog in my precinct."

"So you did." Hank wasn't completely convinced the little dog was mad so much as suffering from the effects of the day's extreme heat, even more relentless than it had been the day before. "Congratulations, Lewis. You killed a dead dog."

Lewis muttered an oath and walked away from Hank, so Hank decided to continue on his way to the precinct house.

"Extra, extra! Heat wave taking over the city!" crowed a newsboy, thrusting a paper at Hank.

"I'm living it, kid," Hank said. Still, he tossed a nickel at the newsie and took a paper. The unbearable heat dominated the headlines, although a story below the fold complained about Police Commissioner Roosevelt blustering about saloons being open on Sundays again and gave an update on the trial of a woman accused of chopping her husband into bits before dumping the remains in the East River. The World had no qualms about declaring her guilty.

Hank had some doubts, given that he'd worked the case. He still suspected her lover, a married man who delivered ice. Maybe the city had decided the ice was too valuable to spare him for trial.

Hank was sympathetic. Dear Lord, it was hot. The air around him was thick and rancid. Simply being outside was like walking around with eight blankets draped over his shoulders. The street smelled of rotting food and horse manure.

Ah, New York in the summer.

He arrived at the precinct house on East Fifth Street, where the whir of the overhead electric fans drowned out all other noise, and still the fans weren't doing much beyond blowing papers around. It smelled slightly better inside, but it wasn't any cooler.


Hank wasn't even at his desk yet and already someone was trying to get his attention.

He sighed and turned his attention toward his colleague and sometime partner, Stephens, who stood there with his arms crossed.

"Would you like for Roosevelt to give you a lecture?" said Stephens, glaring at Hank's bare forearms.

Hank had forsaken a jacket and rolled up his shirtsleeves in an attempt to escape the oppressive heat. Not that it worked. Stephens, of course, wore his full uniform. The collar of his coat was soaked with sweat. Hank wondered what Stephens hoped to achieve by suffocating under all that wool.

"It's amusing to me that Commissioner Roosevelt thinks any man could wear a coat in this weather. If he wants to discuss proper attire, he can do so when the weather cools off." Hank pulled his handkerchief out of his pockets and mopped his brow again.

Stephens balked, but recovered quickly and said, "We have a new investigation. That is, now that you've decided to grace us with your presence."

"It is too hot for sarcasm, Stephens. What is the case?"

Stephens puffed out his chest and made a show of pulling a wad of crumpled paper from his jacket pocket. He consulted his notes. "Murder at a resort on the Bowery."

Hank glanced back toward the front entrance to the precinct house. Taking on a case would mean investigating, which meant going back outside. The last thing Hank wanted to do was go outside. Not that the precinct house was cool and comfortable as such, but Hank reasoned if he sat very still, he might be all right. He turned back to Stephens. "Which resort?"

Stephens looked at his tattered papers. "Club Bulgaria."

Hank schooled his features. He wondered if Stephens knew of the reputation of this particular club. Not that Hank had ever been there. He'd merely been tempted.

"Any other information?" Hank asked.

"Not much. Officers who arrived at the scene first talked to the club owner briefly, but he didn't seem to know anything. The body is still there. A few of the staff from the club have been made to wait there for our arrival."

Hank could only imagine how putrid the body must smell in this heat. "Well," he said. "No sense standing around here dripping. Let's go."

Nicholas Sharp — stage name Paulina Clodhopper — stood outside Club Bulgaria in his street clothes, smoking the last of a cigarillo. It was doing nothing to calm his nerves. He tossed the butt of it toward the street and rearranged the red scarf draped around his neck. It was too hot for such frippery, but he had an image to maintain, and besides, the police were on their way. He wanted to look somewhat respectable. Really, though, Nicky would have much preferred a long soak in an ice bath while wearing nothing at all.

The sun blared down on the Bowery and it smelled like someone had died — which, Nicky acknowledged, had happened in truth — and it was nearly unbearable, but he couldn't stand inside any longer. Not with Edward laid out on the floor like ... well. Nicky didn't want to think of it.

A man in rolled-up shirtsleeves and an ugly brown waistcoat, his hands shoved in his pockets, walked down the street toward Nicky. The man beside him must have been boiling inside his crisp police uniform.

The man in uniform looked Nicky up and down with an expression of deep skepticism on his face. "Are you Mr. Juel?" His tone indicated his real question was, Are you even a real man?

Nicky bristled. "No, darling. He's inside."

The man in shirtsleeves said, "You work here?"


This man was really quite attractive, in a sweaty, disheveled way, although Nicky supposed there was no way around that in this weather. The man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and then pulled the dusty bowler hat off his head, revealing dark brown hair, cut short. He wiped his whole face from his damp forehead to his thick mustache before he dropped the hat back on his head. There seemed to be a strong body under the wrinkled clothing, but it was hard to tell. Still, this man intrigued Nicky. His companion in the uniform was blond and bearded and looked considerably more polished, but in a bland way. The disheveled man was far more interesting.

"I'll take you in to see Mr. Juel," Nicky said. "That is, if I could have your names."

"I'm Detective Stephens," said the uniformed man briskly.

"Hank Brandt," said the man in shirtsleeves.

"Acting Inspector Henry Brandt," Stephens said. "Honestly, Brandt, there are protocols."

Brandt grunted and waved his hand dismissively at Stephens. To Nicky, he said, "And you are?"

"Nicholas Sharp. Come with me." He led the police officers inside.

Julie waited in front of the door to the ballroom. He stepped forward and introduced himself, standing tall but fussing a bit more than necessary — "This is such a terrible tragedy, nothing like this has ever happened here before, I am still in such a state of shock!" — his voice growing increasingly shrill as he spoke. Nicky might have believed him if this had been the first act of violence perpetrated at Club Bulgaria.

"Can you tell us what transpired, Mr. Juel?" asked Detective Stephens, the picture of proper politeness, although it was Brandt who pulled a pad of paper and a pencil from his pocket.

"I did not know the fate of poor Edward until I arrived this morning."

Nicky glanced at Brandt to ascertain his reaction. Julie was lying just as sure as he had a receding hairline; he rarely left the club. Nicky knew for a fact Julie had been sleeping in his office at the back of the club for nearly a week, ever since his lover had thrown him out of their Greenwich Village apartment. Nicky didn't know for certain, but he also suspected poor Edward had been lying on the floor of the ballroom for some time before Julie had deigned to notice him.

"And where were you through all this, Mr. Sharp?" asked Brandt.

Nicky adjusted his scarf. "I went home just after midnight last night. I arrived back at the club about an hour ago, where Mr. Juel confronted me with the news that poor Edward had departed the earth."

Brandt nodded. "What exactly is your occupation here?"

"I entertain the guests."

Brandt pursed his lips. "You entertain them."

"I sing," said Nicky.

Brandt's eyebrows shot up. "Right. So. This Edward, is he a friend of yours?"

Nicky kept hoping Julie would intervene, but he stayed resolutely quiet. Nicky wasn't quite sure what the best answer to these questions would be or how much information he should give away willingly. He said, "He also entertained the guests. In a somewhat different capacity."

Brandt turned toward Stephens and said, "Would you go take a look at the ballroom? I'll follow along in a moment."

Stephens nodded and proceeded into the ballroom. Julie trailed after him.

Nicky shivered, alarmed now that he was alone with Mr. Brandt, who removed his hat and took a step closer to Nicky.

"Tell me honestly," said Brandt. "Edward was a working boy."

Nicky sucked in a breath. Brandt stood close enough for Nicky to smell him, a sour, earthy scent, the fragrance of someone who had spent too much time stewing in his own sweat on a hot day.

"Yes," Nicky whispered.

"And you are as well?"

"No. I only sing."

Brandt grunted. "I'm not here from the vice squad. I do not wish to toss anyone in jail unless they killed your friend Edward. Do you understand me?"

"Yes. And I am being honest. Edward was a working boy. I sing on stage a few times a week." Nicky pointed toward the ballroom. "That's all."

"You sing."

"Yes. And to answer your next question, last I saw Edward was last night. He was entertaining a guest. They went to the back. I do not know what happened after."

Brandt must have been astute enough to discern Nicky's meaning, because he jotted something down on his pad. "What did this guest look like?"

Nicky closed his eyes to try to picture him. "He had dark hair. He was quite tall. Thick mustache. A very fine suit of clothes, much nicer than the sort the guests here usually wear."

Brandt scribbled in his notes. He said, "Would you recognize this man if you saw him again?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"They went to the back and never returned?"

Nicky didn't quite know what to make of these questions. Clearly, Brandt was worldly enough to know how a club like this worked, so he must have known the back rooms behind the ballroom at Club Bulgaria were where men went to have sex with each other. Edward would have sidled up to a man like the one Nicky had seen him with last night and seen the money dancing before his eyes. He would have taken the man in back for a ... financial transaction. And then?

"I'll be honest and tell you I didn't think much about Edward hanging on the arm of some man from uptown. This fancy dressed man was slumming, which is hardly a novel occurrence. Usually the bourgeoisie come down here to gawk and feel superior, but occasionally one of the boys here does get his claws in one. It wasn't strange enough for me to take notice."

"Except for his clothes."

"Yes, well. I quite liked the cut of the man's jacket and spent a brief, wondrous moment imagining I could afford to purchase such a thing."

Brandt nodded. "In other words, Edward may just have emerged from the back room unscathed after entertaining this man, but if he did, you did not see it." He stepped toward the ballroom. "Come with me."

"Oh, no, darling. I couldn't possibly. I've spent far too much time with poor Edward today as it is."

"Fine. Stay here, then. Don't leave. I'm not done talking to you."

"Your wish is my command."

Brandt narrowed his eyes. He probably didn't appreciate Nicky acting flippant, but Nicky knew of no other way to manage such a situation.

Nicky watched Brandt walk into the ballroom. When the voices of the men inside rose, Nicky found a spare chair to sit in. There was nothing to do but wait.

For nearly a year, Police Commissioner Roosevelt had been trying to cure the city of vice. Standing in the middle of a tawdry ballroom, Hank could see his point. There was something particularly sad about this room. Hank glanced toward Stephens, who he knew thought cleaning up the city was a worthy goal, and maybe it was. Hank did not believe it was an achievable one. The city was too far gone, perhaps. And its residents liked their vices.

Hank imagined this ballroom had once been grand. There were the remnants of a forgotten era everywhere: sculptural touches carved into the ceiling and a series of murals painted on two of the walls. On the other hand, the murals were somewhat vulgar and depicted men in various states of undress lounging about in parks or, in the case of one of them, in the ruins of Ancient Rome. Hank supposed the murals were supposed to be titillating, but there was something strange about them. Hank was no art scholar, but these were not quite right, as if they were a parody of art and not art itself.

Artistry and architecture aside, though, the ballroom inside Club Bulgaria was worn and filthy. The wooden floor was stained and scratched, the stage curtains were threadbare, and the sculptures were chipped or broken.

Stephens stood frowning as he took in the room. They hadn't discussed it on the walk over to the club, but Stephens was no greenhorn. He had to have known to expect a dance hall or brothel at least — the residents of New York did not come to this neighborhood to see Shakespeare — but he might not have known that this was a fairy resort. This was precisely the sort of place that would send him into fits. If Stephens was trying to hide his revulsion, he failed badly.

Hank knelt and took a closer look at the body. There was something vulgar about the dead man, too, something that made him blend in with his sordid surroundings, and not just because he was dead. Hank recorded every visible detail in his notes. The dead man wore a stained shirt and black trousers. A smudge of some kind of grime stained his cheek. His hair was unruly. There was powder on his face and some sort of rouge on his cheeks, which kept the paleness of death at bay.

Not to mention, there was a knife wound in his chest.

Hank turned to Mr. Juel. "Mr. Sharp mentioned seeing this Edward go off with a wealthy-looking man. Did you happen to see this man?" Juel shook his head. "No, Inspector. I wish I had. Do you know what it will do to my business if word gets out this kind of violence could be perpetrated at my club? If that man is responsible for this, I want him caught! I want —"

"No need for theatrics," said Hank.

"No need? Why, just three weeks past, a man was killed outside Paresis, and what did the police do? Nothing. One more dead prostitute, eh? The working boys who walk along the Bowery at night are inverted and less than human, are they not? Why should the police bother to investigate?"

The Windup
Chapter 1
IAN HAD been back in New York City for three whole weeks before he had a panic attack.

It happened one evening after he went to visit his mother. He felt off balance as he descended the front stoop of his childhood home, a gorgeous brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn, that Ian’s family had bought for peanuts back when the neighborhood was home to gangs and drug dealers instead of yuppies with strollers. When a ponytailed woman in yoga pants nearly ran over his foot with her double-wide stroller, Ian was not entirely convinced the neighborhood had improved. He had to admit, though, that it was prettier than it once had been, that the renovated old brownstones on Sixth Street had taken on a new sheen. The cherry trees lining the sidewalk were a nice touch, certainly.

So it was good to know that his mother was in a good place, even if he still basically hated the house. He’d spent the early part of the evening lounging on the same brown-and-cream plaid sofa that had sat in the living room since 1984. Then he’d had dinner at the scuffed table in the dining room, and it had all been routine, except not quite. Ian’s father had not been there. And that was cause for rejoicing.

His father’s decision to leave Ian’s mother and move to the suburbs was part of why Ian had moved back to New York to begin with. The paycheck his new employer had dangled before him was an even bigger incentive.

Although none of that mattered now that he was back in the relative safety of his nostalgia-free block on Eighty-Fourth Street, the Upper West Side of Manhattan being the farthest from Brooklyn he could move while still being reasonably close to the new job. Now his breathing had suddenly become a labored thing and his heart was beating faster. A vague disquiet plagued him, one he couldn’t quite put a finger on. He hadn’t been in New York long enough to establish a routine to deviate from, so that wasn’t the trigger. He was a few miles away from his childhood home, so that couldn’t be it either. Maybe it was just the noise of the city, louder than the neighborhood in the Chicago suburbs he’d just left, or the taxi that whooshed by him when he put his foot on the street to cross it. Maybe it was job stress. Maybe he had no business being back in New York.

He jaywalked, cutting across Eighty-Fourth Street to get from the north side to the south, where his building sat, and he could see the gold numbers above the glass doors that led inside, but then they went blurry. Armand, the doorman, took a step away from the door and shot Ian a quizzical look. Then, bam, right in the middle of the goddamn street, the panic attack seized him and all was lost. His vision went fuzzy, his heart rate kicked up too fast, and he gulped for air, but nothing was going to stave this off.

“Sweet Jesus,” he heard someone—probably Armand—say, and then a hand wrapped around his arm and yanked him into the building. Swiftly he was pushed into one of the ugly red chairs in the lobby, and a man—again, probably Armand, who was earning a larger holiday tip with each passing minute—shoved Ian’s head down so that he was hunched over, his head between his legs, and Armand was muttering, “Breathe. Just breathe.”

Though the symptoms eventually abated, the unease didn’t.

“I don’t even know what I’m panicking about,” Ian said softly to a furrow-browed Armand.

“You and everyone else in this neighborhood,” Armand said.

As he rode the elevator up to his apartment, Ian tried to remember what his mother had said. “Get out there. Meet new people. Make some friends.” Re-entrench was the implication. She wanted Ian to make New York his home again, even though he didn’t see how it ever could be. He’d work this job for a year or two and then he’d be off to the next one.

Besides, he had friends.

Once he felt almost normal again, Ian called Josh, not for advice but just to say hi. Unfortunately he ended up unloading instead. Not about the panic attack—Josh knew enough about Ian’s anxieties to frequently compare him to a yappy little Chihuahua on speed, but he didn’t need every symptom of Ian’s anxiety catalogued, certainly—just about the visit with his mother and the whole speech about what an asshole his last boyfriend had been and how he really should meet someone new.

“You know,” Josh said, “there was an article in the Times last weekend about how gay sports leagues are the new hookup spot. More so than bars.”

Ian rolled his eyes. “Here we go with the baseball league. Josh, I already told you—”

“Not that the bar scene is dead, but we’re a little old for it, don’t you think?”

“What I think is that you’re married to a very nice man who would not appreciate—”

“Seriously, sign-ups are on Saturday and you really should come. If not for me or the love of the sport then because the league will provide you with about a hundred opportunities to hook up with some guy.”

Ian laughed despite everything. “I bet this article also had some stats about how many deeply committed, loving relationships had resulted from gay sports leagues.”

“There may have been a mention of that.”

“I don’t want a deeply committed relationship.”

Josh made a raspberry sound into the phone. “Oh, honey. I hope you end up on my team. I’ve got just the guy for you to meet.”

“In that case, forget it.”

“Ian. Honey. Please. Just come to the sign-ups. See what the league is about. If you hate everything about it, fine, but I think you’ll have fun.”

TY TOSSED a baseball up and watched it arc through the air before he held out his hand to catch it. He did it again, enjoying the satisfying slap each time the ball hit his palm.

“Showing off?” Josh walked over, a stupid grin on his face.

Ty snatched his baseball out of the sky. “Someone has to,” he said.

Josh crossed his arms over his chest. He scanned the scenery. They were standing at the periphery of one of the East River Park ball fields, next to a card table they’d set up for league sign-ups. A colorful banner advertising the Rainbow League, New York’s premier LGBT amateur sports league, hung from the front. On this particular cool spring afternoon, they were signing up new players for summer baseball. Ty hadn’t had much else to do that afternoon, so he’d volunteered to help with registration. Somehow he’d been left there by himself for the past twenty minutes while Josh and a few other volunteers had thrown a ball around on the field. Ty was bored out of his mind.

At least Josh had come back. He walked over to the table and flipped through the binder that served as their roster.

“You know,” Ty said, “there’s this thing called the Internet. Much as I like sitting out here in the sun, we could have saved time and manpower by getting that damned website up.”

“Hey, I argued that we should,” Josh said with a shrug. “This was Will’s directive.”

“And where is His Majesty?”

“He just got here. He’s trying to get Nate and Carlos to play a real game instead of just tossing the ball around. They don’t seem to be having any part of it.”

Ty sighed. “Sounds about right.”

“Whatever.” Josh pressed his palm against an open page, the sign-up sheet for his and Ty’s team, the Brooklyn Hipsters. “So, look, with Bryan gone and that Adam guy going MIA, there are two slots open on the team. Everyone else re-upped.”

“Good.” They’d had a great team the previous season, and after a few seasons in the league, Ty had come to loathe adjusting for new players. New guys were too unpredictable.

“I’m hoping my friend shows up while we’re manning the table so we can get him on our team before someone else gets him,” said Josh. “Once it becomes knowledge that he’s actually played baseball, everyone will be fighting for him.”

Ty cocked an eyebrow and shot Josh what he thought of as his best sexy insouciant look. “Actual baseball experience.”

Josh was unfazed. “We played together in high school.”

Ty tossed the ball in the air again. “Ha. And here I thought you were going to tell me he’d been a pro. If playing in school is the only measure, I had actual baseball experience before I joined the team.”

“You played T-ball in elementary school.”

Ty just smiled. “We have Mason, though. Much to the envy of everyone else in the league.” Actually, most of Ty and Josh’s teammates had some kind of baseball experience. Nate and Carlos—who, along with Mason and Josh, were Ty’s closest friends on the team—had played on the same Little League team when they were kids, for example. Joe and Shane had played college ball.

“Sure,” said Josh, “but it’s nice to have more than one person on the team who knows how the game works. As opposed to some other people.”

“Hey, just because I don’t give a shit about pro baseball doesn’t mean I’m totally ignorant.” Ty really pulled out the Texas when he said that, so it came out sounding like “tote-ly ig-nant.” He cleared his throat. “So where is this baseball god?”

“Dunno. He wasn’t that keen on joining, but I tried to persuade him that it would be worth it for the hookup opportunities. He seemed intrigued.”

Ty laughed. “Well, sure. Who wouldn’t be? I saw that article in the Times. Allegedly the New York gays are all joining sports leagues instead of going to bars. Which is horseshit, as anyone who has been in Hell’s Kitchen lately knows perfectly well.” Ty considered that for a moment. “Although I guess I did make it my mission to, er, work my way through the entirety of the Queens team last season.”

Josh took a sip from his water bottle and narrowed his eyes. “How did that work out for you?”

Ty shrugged. “Well enough. Every team has to have a token slut. I’m happy to fill that role.”

Josh shook his head. “Did Bill James say that?”


“Hey, Josh!”

Ty turned and saw a blond guy making his way across the park. He was, well, he was pretty good-looking, actually. Slender in an athletic way. Jaw that looked like it could cut glass. Package nicely highlighted by the dark jeans he was wearing. “This your secret weapon?” Ty asked.

Josh looked smug.

Ty tossed the ball again.

“Hi,” the guy said as he arrived. “I made it.”

Ty took a moment to really scope out the man. He’d started cataloguing his merits when Josh slapped his arm.

“Stop that!” said Josh. “So. Ty, this is my friend Ian from high school. He just moved back to New York after many years away and blah blah.”

“And blah blah?” Ian said. “That’s my whole backstory?”

“This,” Josh went on, “is Ty. He’s second base.”

“And I Don’t Know is on third,” said Ty, holding out his hand to shake.

Ian shot him a wry smile. “Nice to meet you.” He shook Ty’s hand.

Ty supposed that this would be the moment in the movie when the music swelled, or the moment in the novel when the characters touched and electricity passed between them, but even though Ty was absolutely attracted to Ian and had already begun his strategy to get the man naked, nothing like that happened. They merely shook hands, casual as you please, as if this were a business transaction.

“I don’t get a cute tidbit of information?” Ty asked Josh. “Just ‘second base’?”

Josh shrugged. “What do you want me to say? Ian, this is Ty. He’s from Texas, as I imagine you’ve gathered from the accent. He’s been in New York about ten years. And he fancies himself the team slut.”

Ian laughed. “Nice. Every team needs one.”

“That’s what I told Josh.”

Josh crossed his arms over his chest. “So, you’re here,” he said to Ian. “Are you signing up or what?”

“Is Ty here as a sample specimen? Are all the guys on the team this hot?”

Ty guffawed. “Look at you, indirectly flirting with me. It’s the slut thing, right? The fact that I’m easy makes me intriguing?”

“Sure,” said Ian. “The ginger hair doesn’t hurt.”

“Josh, let’s sign him up right now.”

“Can you play third base?” Josh asked.

A matter of minutes later, Ian had registered for the league and was on the roster as the new third baseman for the Brooklyn Hipsters. “But living in Brooklyn is not a requirement, obviously,” Josh explained. “That’s just the way they do the team designations. There are eight teams in the league.”

“All gay men?” Ian asked.

“No, some teams have women too.”

“The Mermaids, man,” Ty said.

“They’re kind of our rivals,” Josh explained. “The all-woman team representing Coney Island. Totally ruthless, those women.”

“I see,” said Ian, looking a little dazed.

“So, quickie rundown? Each team has a twelve- or thirteen-man roster which includes every position plus a couple of pitchers and a backup utility player. We do all our games here at this park.” Josh pointed at the perimeter of the park. “You’ll play one game a week, probably, at least until the play-offs, which happen at the end of the season in October. After each game, both teams go to this bar in the East Village for postgame drinks.”

“The owner of the bar is sort of the league mascot,” Ty chimed in.

“So that’s it. And it’s just fun.” Josh gushed a little.

Ian laughed. He had a pretty great laugh, Ty could admit. And his voice was low and had a husky quality to it, like he’d smoked once upon a time. “I don’t know why you’re giving me the sales pitch after I’ve signed up. You got me, Josh.”

“Did my presence sweeten the deal?” Ty asked, mostly out of curiosity. He certainly hoped it had.

“Maybe a little.”

Josh rolled his eyes. “I see how this is. You’re already fucking, aren’t you?”

Ian sputtered. “Okay, first of all—”

At the same time, Ty said, “That’s not what’s going—”

Josh let out an exasperated sigh. “All right. Well. Welcome to the Hipsters, Ian. We practice in Prospect Park every Sunday too, just to make sure we don’t completely suck. I’ll e-mail you the info.”

“Fair warning, though,” said Ty. “Our manager, Scott? He’s kind of a dick and super competitive. And according to the calendar, we’re playing Hell’s Kitchen first.”

Josh grumbled.

Ian’s eyes went wide. “What’s wrong with Hell’s Kitchen?”

“Will manages the Hell’s Kitchen team. He’s the guy over there with the mustache, pretending to play catch with the skinny guy in the yellow T-shirt.”

“Pretending?” asked Ian.

“He’s probably berating that poor guy,” Ty said. “Will is constitutionally incapable of having fun.”

“He is a tiny bit competitive,” said Josh.

“Sure, if by ‘a tiny bit’ you mean ‘sacrifices children and small woodland creatures before each game to ensure victory,’” said Ty.

“A couple of those other guys are on our team, though,” said Josh. “That’s Nate and Carlos throwing the ball back and forth over by the backstop. Nate’s the best pitcher in the league.”

Ian shook his head. “This is a lot of information all at once, guys. But thanks, I think.”

“You will learn the ropes quickly,” Ty said. “Just come to practice next week and we’ll, uh, ease you into it.”

Ian narrowed his eyes. “Are you coming on to me?”

This guy. Ty was definitely interested. “I was making a sexy pun, yes.”

“Geez Louise,” said Josh. “I kind of suspected this might happen when I introduced you two, but the league certainly doesn’t need any drama. So, you know. Fuck if you want, but keep it off the field.”

Poor Ian looked startled by that. Ty laughed. “And you, Joshua, never start any drama, of course.”

“I’m married!” Josh said.

“I don’t see how that makes you immune to drama.”

Josh huffed. “Well, whatever. Welcome to the team, Ian.”

Will suddenly barked at the five guys standing on the field, snagging everyone’s attention.

Ty laughed. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

“You said that guy’s not on our team, right?” said Ian.

“You learn fast,” Ty said.

ACROSS THE field, Nate fiddled with his glove while he avoided Will’s gaze. It wasn’t too hard, especially now that poor Jake had shown up. Will sometimes held back when yelling at players he didn’t know well, but if you were on his team, all bets were off. Jake was now bearing the brunt of Will’s aggression with a resigned expression on his face.

Carlos picked up three balls and started juggling them. “Check out the fresh meat talking to Ty and Josh.”

Nate looked over at the registration table. There, indeed, was a guy Nate had never seen before, and Nate could tell by their body language that he and Ty were flirting madly with each other.

“I bet it would have been nice knowing that guy,” said Nate.

Carlos chuckled. From the other side of the diamond, Zach yelled, “Practicing your ball-handling skills, Carlos?”

“You know it!” Carlos shouted back.

“Ball handling? You’re doing it wrong!” said Aiden.

“I’ll handle your balls later, papi!” Carlos said. He pursed his lips and made a kissing motion.

“You’re all clowns!” said Nate, mostly to deflect from the fact that watching Aiden and Carlos flirt drove him bananas.

Carlos tossed the balls high in the air one at a time before catching each one. He said, “You see the game last night?”

“Caught the end of it.” Nate didn’t have to ask which game. For two guys who had grown up in the Bronx, there was only one baseball team worth anything. “Hell of a hit Gardner got in the ninth.”

“Yeah, it was a beauty. What do you think of the new catcher?”

Nate could already see where Carlos was going with that. “As a player or as a man?”

“Either. Both.”

“I wouldn’t kick him out of bed.”

Carlos motioned to Aiden and hurled one of the balls at him. Aiden caught it deftly. “Lourdes said he came into her nail salon last week. One of the other girls gave him some crazy trippy manicure.”

“That’s the thing catchers are doing now, I guess.”

“Can you imagine Joe getting a manicure?” Carlos said, mentioning the Brooklyn Hipsters’ catcher.

Nate laughed. “Nope. Well, maybe with black polish.”

“Oh, oh, new guy is signing on the dotted line over there.”

Sure enough, back at the registration table, the blond guy appeared to be filling out the registration form.

Aiden jogged over to Nate and Carlos. Carlos stared at him, starry-eyed. Nate wanted to throw up.

It wasn’t that he was jealous. Well, okay, that was a lie. Nate was extremely jealous. Carlos should have been with Nate, not that asshole Aiden—who, sure, was handsome, but man, he was a dick. Nate had no right to complain, though, since he had never said a word about his feelings for Carlos. Although, Christ on a cracker, it wasn’t like Carlos and Aiden were even doing more than flirting at this point. Nate had gotten an earful already about how much Carlos wanted Aiden and how frustrating it was that Aiden hadn’t made a real move yet.

“Who’s the new guy?” Aiden asked, gesturing toward the registration table.

“Ty’s next victim,” said Carlos.

“Do you know if they filled the rosters for all the teams yet?” Aiden asked.

“Probably not if they’re still letting that guy sign up,” said Carlos.

“We’d get more people if Will would just get the goddamn website done,” said Nate.

“Sshh!” said Aiden. “Don’t anger the beast.”

Nate rolled his eyes. He didn’t want to incur Will’s wrath any more than anyone else, but he was not in the mood to deal with Aiden. Maybe he could bow out of this gracefully. “Do you think we really need to hang around much longer? Ty seems to be getting the job done over there.”

Nate, Carlos, and Aiden watched for a moment. When Josh gestured toward them, they all turned and pretended to be doing something else.

“Eh, probably not,” said Carlos. “Did you need to be somewhere else today?”

Nate didn’t really have to be anywhere in particular, but he didn’t want to hang around here if he was going to have to watch this bullshit. “I’ve got some work stuff.”

Carlos looked at him as if he were trying to communicate telepathically. Nate and Carlos had mostly volunteered because they found out Aiden was going to be here, and Carlos wanted an excuse to spend more time with Aiden. Nate, apparently, was a sucker. Carlos wanted someone to lend him some courage to ask out Aiden, and here was the opportunity for the two of them to be sort of alone.

“I think we’re all going to Barnstorm whenever this wraps,” Aiden said.

And now alcohol would be involved. Nate schooled his face to not betray his frustration. “I should probably go get my work done. Give the new guy my regards.”

Carlos gave Nate a halfhearted hug and then turned the full force of his attention back on Aiden. Nate gave them both a little wave before he left the field.

Damn it.

Josh snagged him before he could leave, though. “Nate is the pitcher I mentioned,” he told the new guy. “Nate, this is my friend Ian. He’ll be our new third baseman.”

“That’s great! I heard Adam moved to Chicago.”

Josh scrunched up his face as if he found the mere thought of Chicago distasteful. “Are you headed out?” he asked Nate.

“Yeah, I… have a thing.”

“Okay. Well, we’ll see you at practice next week.”

“Sure. Nice to meet you, Ian. Don’t let Ty scare you off.”

“I’m not scary,” Ty said. He turned to Ian and shook his head. “I’m really not.”

Ian laughed. He tugged on Ty’s sleeve playfully.

Nate wanted to scream. Instead, he gave those assembled a quick nod and then made a beeline out of the park.

Devin December

Such a Dance

The Stars that Tremble
Out in the Field
Ten Days in August

The Windup