A Kind of Romance will be released in eight days (June 6)!Woohoo! As promised, I’ve written a three-part short story to tie-in books 1 & 2. This is book 2 in the A Kind of Stories series, which at this point is shaping into a four book series. Lol. This is Benny’s story. If you’ve read A Kind of Truth you’ll remember Benny is Will’s best friend. He isn’t a musician and when the story ends, he’s only loosely affiliated with Spiral. So it makes sense that his story isn’t a rock and roll one. This is a New York City love story with two men who couldn’t be more different if they tried. My favorite kind of romance! (pun intended 😉 ) And when you meet Zeke, you’ll completely understand.
Without further adieu, here is part 1. Parts 2 & 3 will be posted this week before release day. Look for the next installment Wednesday or Thursday (sorry, I’m out of town or I’d try to get it out sooner!). <3
Also… there’s a $10 Amazon GC giveaway at Love Bytes too! Just tell me your idea of a kind of romance to participate. I’ll choose a winner May 31 at 9pm PST. 🙂
Happy reading! Lane xo
A Kind of Beginning – Short Story (Part 1)
There was a cheerful vibe in Bowery Bagels that didn’t quite mesh with an average Monday morning. I supposed George’s sunny disposition made it feel that way most days. Today the heightened joyful air radiated around the small store, making me grin at every silly joke my employer told as I slathered cream cheese on toasted bagels before handing them off to George’s grateful customers. I snuck a peek at my watch. Nine fifteen. Fuck. I still had forty-five minutes till I was off. Happy joyous mood or not, I wanted out. I had a million things on my mind and none of them included bagels.
“Hey Rand, I’ll take a cheddar bagel with jalapeño cream cheese, lightly toasted. Oh… and be snappy about it.”
I glanced up at the grinning asshole on the opposite side of counter and flashed him my middle finger, making sure it was for his eyes only. Tim snickered then reached over to squeeze my cheek. I caught his wrist and twisted it hard enough to make him yelp.
“Knock it off. Why are you up so early? And better question… why are you here?”
“We need to talk. Have you looked at your phone?” he asked, pulling out his wallet.
“Put that away. It’s on me. And no, I’m working. Professional bagel masters do not fool around on their cellular devices when there’s toasting and cream cheese application to be done.” I shook my head in mock despair as I handed Tim’s order to Filipe to handle. “I worry about you. How are you ever gonna make it in the world, Timmy?”
“Ha fucking ha. I don’t know. What I do know is it’s time to grow up and move on, Rand. I know you love George, but it’s time to quit your part-time gig here and focus one hundred percent on your real one.”
“Thanks Dad, I’ll keep that in mind.” I snarked as I stole a quick glance behind my friend to gage the incoming stream of traffic.
George was holding court at the front of the store with a couple of old-timer and Jason was ringing up a family who’d just finished telling George they were visiting the Big Apple by way of Pittsburgh. The bagel rush was finally slowing down and if the day progressed as per usual, it would be this way until lunchtime. I’d be long gone by then, I mused. Thank God.
“Please do. I’m here because Mike called this morning at the crack of dawn…also known as eight-thirty in the morning, to let us know “Do It Like This” just hit number ten.”
“You heard me.”
We stared at each other for a long moment. This was huge. Astronomically huge. I had no doubt Tim checked our manager’s claim before he braved the cool windy April morning to tell me the news. This was our third single to break the top ten since our debut album was released six months ago. The building momentum couldn’t be ignored. Something special was happening here. Spiral was on the brink of making it big time.
If that was true, Tim was right. It was time to quit my part-time job at Bowery Bagels. I loved George, but I didn’t need the extra money or the diversion like I had when I first arrived in Manhattan a year and a half ago with a bassist, a drummer and a long shot dream to take our band, Spiral, to the top. Everything was different now. I had a boyfriend I loved, an incredible condo in the city and more money by my standards than I knew what to do with. My effort to keep perspective and not get ahead of myself by working for George and concentrating on the music had worked. Maybe. Or maybe I had Will to thank for that.
“You’re serious?” I whispered.
“I would joke about a lot of things, but not this. Congrats, man,” he said with a slow wicked grin.
“Right back atcha.”
I skirted the counter and yanked his elbow to pull him into a bear hug. He muttered my name into my shirt and smacked my arm, but I didn’t let go until he stomped on my foot and then punched my bicep. Hard.
“Back off, asshole.” Tim’s glower wasn’t particularly fierce.
He was a good-natured guy even on a bad day, but today his blue eyes sparked with a joy he couldn’t hide. And while his navy V-neck sweater, dark jeans and short dark blonde hair made him look more like one of Will’s classmates at NYU, the man was a talented drummer who’d worked his ass off to make Spiral a success too.
“Ow,” I complained, rubbing my arm theatrically.
“Boys! What’s going on here? I have four sons who may all be grown men now, but I remember how to sort out troublemakers,” George said, waving good-bye to his customer before toddling toward us.
George was a short, heavyset, balding man in his early seventies. He was a New York City legend, as renowned for his for his friendly service as he was for his savory bagels. Three of his four sons helped run the family owned business now. This store on Bowery was the original. And it was George’s pride and joy. Much like Spiral was mine, I mused.
Nonetheless, I didn’t know how to quit this guy. He’d taken me under his wing and offered counsel and guidance when I needed it most. He’d been unfailingly kind and supportive. I had to think of the nicest way to give my notice and somehow let him know how grateful I was to him. I swallowed, feeling suddenly overwhelmed. Now wasn’t the time. I felt oddly emotional. Onstage that was normal. In a bagel shop… not so much. I’d talk to Will first. He’d know what to do. I grinned at my boss and opened my mouth to make a smartass comment about Tim disturbing the peace, but something else entirely popped out instead.
“I quit.” Oops.
I swallowed hard and tried again, hopefully with more polish. George frowned and pointed his finger at me. I heard Tim’s “smooth, Rand”, but I kept my gaze on my confused looking boss. Actually, he didn’t look confused for long. A myriad of funny expressions flitted across his face. The last one was my favorite though… pride. He lunged for me, pulling my six foot two self against him in a hug that rivaled the one I’d given Tim earlier. When he finally released me, he shook Tim’s hand profusely and then ushered us toward a vacant table.
“Congratulations! Tell me everything. Don’t leave out a thing! Your parents must be so proud,” he gushed.
I shot a bemused glance at Tim but recovered quickly. “Thank you, Mr. G. I don’t really know how this works now but we heard our label is sending us on tour—”
“To Europe,” Tim supplied.
“What?” George and I asked in stereo.
“If you picked up your phone or listened to your messages, you’d know. We’re leaving at the end of May. First stop London. There are a few local shows and radio appearances coming up too. We need this guy twenty-four seven now,” Tim said in a serious tone to my boss. I wanted to roll my eyes, but hell… it was true.
“I knew your band was doing well. It was only a matter of time before this day came. Ezekiel, was telling me the other day he couldn’t believe you still worked here. He said your songs are on the radio every hour on the hour. This is very exciting. Very exciting indeed.”
“Yeah, but—I don’t want to leave you hanging. I can stay until you find someone to cover the early shift.” I winced when Tim kicked me hard under the table and mouthed “no you can’t”.
“Nonsense! I’m afraid you’re not easily replaced, but don’t worry about bagels. You’ve got other things to think about now.” Mr. G patted my hand reassuringly. “Go on now. You’re done with your morning here and I’m sure you’ll want to tell William your good news.”
I nodded, feeling strangely overwhelmed. Cutting ties at Bowery Bagels was symbolic. The end of a chapter and the beginning of something new.
“You’re right. I need to get going, but I’ll be in to work Thursday morning and hey—maybe I’ll find a replacement for you before then!”
George smiled kindly. “You’re a good man, Randall. A good soul. You’ll do great things one day. I can tell.”
Celebrations with Will invariably led to the bedroom. Nah, that wasn’t true. Sometimes they led to sex in the kitchen, in the shower or on the sofa. Today I didn’t care where or how, I only knew I needed to see him and be with him. I needed to connect with the piece of me that only belonged to him. If I could do it naked and writhing with him… even better. He didn’t pick up his cell or answer my text, but I figured he was probably too immersed in his music to look at it. I heaved in exasperation before calling Ed, our contact at Suite Dog Records, to get his take. He was so excited, I could barely get a word in edgewise.
“This is nutsville, man! Totally nuts! I’ve got to assign a team to get things organized for your tour. Cammy is taking over your PR work. She’s doing a great job and—”
“She is. It’s all incredible. I agree, but I…” I stopped at the corner of Bowery and 3rd and gazed unseeing at the traffic moving uptown. I didn’t know how to formulate my question without sounding needy. Or insecure. Neither were attractive attributes. However, there wasn’t time for finesse. “What does this mean exactly?”
Ed whooped with glee before answering me in his thick Bronx accent. “Three songs going top ten on Billboard charts from a debut album means you’ve hit a fucking homerun. That baby is out the park, into the sky and halfway to the moon by now. You wanna know what that means, Rand? It means you’re gonna go buy yourself a bottle of Cristal on me and go celebrate ’cause the real show is about to begin.”
The strains of a piano floated through the condo when I opened the door twenty minutes later. I wasn’t sure Will would still be home, but my luck held. He was dressed in light blue pajama bottoms and one of my old Orioles T-shirts. He had a somewhat tragic case of bedhead, but fuck me, I thought he looked sexier than ever. I couldn’t figure out what it was about this guy that had me in knots. I couldn’t breathe around him sometimes. He was so damn beautiful to me. His soulful smile and calm demeanor kept me grounded in the best possible ways. I had a tendency to fly without checking my safety gear, but Will was always a step ahead of me.
I tiptoed toward him, standing just out of his vision. I watched his reflection in the windows as he leaned into his instrument with his eyes closed. His brown hair fell into his eyes. I itched to move the strands aside and kiss him. I caught my own reflection and grinned at the picture we made. My longish hair, dark jeans and the leather jacket that hid my inked arms screamed rock and roll. Or maybe “get a job”. I didn’t look like the kind of guy Will would fall for any more than he looked like my type. We were a mystery in many ways. But not in the ways that counted.
“You know I can see you, right?”
I chuckled softly before moving to stand behind him. He leaned back into my touch as I massaged his shoulders. I bent to nuzzle his chin, slipping one hand under his tee and resting the other to cup his semi-hard dick. Yeah, it was good to know I wasn’t alone in this, I mused as I pushed the elastic out of the way to palm him. He stopped playing and groaned, lifting his hips slightly as I curled my fingers around his girth.
“Baby, I need you. Bed. Now.” I unbuckled my belt and fumbled with my zipper. “I need to be inside you and—”
“We can’t,” he whispered. He stilled my roving hand and swallowed hard, before gesturing toward the kitchen.
I furrowed my brow and stroked a little harder. A haze of lust and longing made it difficult for me to see straight now. I must have misheard him. “Yes, we can. I wanna fuck you, Will. I need—”
“If you don’t stop, I’m going to faint. Which would probably work for you two. You can stay right where you are and do the nasty while I lay here completely oblivious. If I’m lucky, I’ll come to in time to catch the end of the show.”
I spun around to confront the intruder sitting on a barstool at the kitchen island.
“Benny! Jesus, you almost gave me a fuck heart attack! What the hell are you doing here?”
“I’m hanging out with my best friend, William, who was about to get dressed and come fabric shopping with me.” He slid off the stool and sauntered toward us, brushing his blue tinged bangs aside in a curiously elegant manner. “Somehow I think he just got a better offer.”
To be continued…