Excerpt: The Fall Guide

Eric Caville lifted the last of his roller cases from the trunk and lined it up next to its mates on the curb as he straightened, breathing his last muggy lungful of Los Angeles air to tide him over for the next few days. He looked around for a luggage dolly to haul his things and ended up with his hands on his hips, an exasperated huff leaving him. The airport was busy as ever, and there were no available dollies in sight.

“Even on a three-day trip, you can’t manage to pack light!” the mellow tenor of Martine, Eric’s boyfriend, heckled him from the open front window of his Porsche Cabriolet.

Eric’s mouth twisted in an unattractive scowl that he smoothed from his face in the next instant, admonishing himself against wrinkles or the outward show of bad attitude that could leave them there. He leaned over to peer through the window. “You know I’m going to an expo,” he reminded Martine. “To work. I need to get my brand out there—”

“Whatever; the expo is in Vegas, right?” Martine blew a flippant kiss in Eric’s direction before returning both hands to the wheel without waiting for a response. “I’m sure you’ll have your share of fun. Make sure to keep what happens in Vegas, in Vegas—or at least use protection.” He winked over a cocky grin.

Eric made an exasperated noise and waved him off. “I’m going to Vegas to work,” he repeated. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

“Bye, have fun; stay safe!” was Martine’s rejoinder. The Cabriolet left the curb before Eric had fully straightened himself to his six foot-plus height in heels.

“Same to you, I guess,” he muttered while he surveyed his luggage and tried to decide how to wrangle it all inside.

It was a severe letdown to have been counting on Martine’s help, only to arrive at the airport and be summarily deposited at the curb along with his luggage and the breeziest of farewell kisses brushed against the corner of his mouth. Eric supposed that was what he got for assuming anything, but it had never entered his mind that his boyfriend of eight months hadn’t even considered parking and walking him in.

“It’s a Cabriolet, baby,” Eric mimicked Martine’s scandalized tone, the response that had greeted Eric’s questioning on why they had passed up the turn-off for the garage.

Someone who wouldn’t see him off in a proper farewell at the airport, Eric mused, was not a good candidate to provide a key to his apartment, let alone his heart.

Through the grace of the long arms that genetics had given him, Eric managed to snare all of his roller cases and crab-walk his awkward way toward the door. At least he would be checking most of the cases, and things could have been worse—he could have brought the ones without wheels.

As he made his painfully slow progress to the door, he considered Martine’s hurried departure and what it meant for their relationship. He had found himself thinking with increasing frequency about breaking things off with Martine. They hadn’t reached the year-mark yet, and in Eric’s mind, that was time to either move in, or move on.

The wink and the remark about Vegas put an adamant stamp on Eric’s aggravation. He’d told Martine when they began their relationship with a whirlwind round of dinner dates and drinks exchanged at classy upscale L.A. bars that he wasn’t a swinger, an open-relationship guy, or someone capable of focusing on more than one partner at a time. Martine had seemed relieved, and professed to feel the same way. Eric was starting to wonder if he’d been told what he wanted to hear.

“Can I help you with that?” asked a tall, tanned man in a suit. “That’s quite an armful for one person.”

“That would be great, thank you.” Eric turned a dazzling smile on his benefactor.

The man’s eyes widened, but he didn’t retract the offer.

Eric was used to all kinds of reactions to his appearance. What others might term flamboyant, he preferred to call fabulous. He’d been labeled fag and freak, but Eric considered himself fashion-conscious. The older he’d gotten, the more acceptable it had become for men to be immaculately groomed, and now he could fit right in with the so-called metrosexuals so long as he wasn’t wearing too much pressed powder. There was still the odd occasion where he was mistaken for a woman or a trans-sexual, but Eric was most definitely a gay man, and he embraced his good looks with the grooming to set it off to best advantage. “I just need to get these to the check-in and I’ll be all set,” Eric added. He turned another brilliant smile on the man as they hustled toward the nearest airline counter.

The man appeared briefly stunned before returning it with a tentative smile of his own. “You’re flying out with this airline?” he commented.

The corner of Eric’s mouth tipped up into a smirk. He wondered if he was this man’s first accidental boycrush. Surely not, if he lived in L.A.; but then, he might have been there to visit and was on his way home now. It was an awfully well-tailored suit, but that kind of style wasn’t exclusive to L.A. “Yes, and you?” Eric asked.

“No, sorry,” he replied, flashing another quick, almost shy grin.

Eric gave him a smile with full eye-crinkle in response. “Why, did you want to buy me a drink?”

“No! I … what? Uh … well …” He trailed off, sounding speculative.

Eric’s smile widened. He couldn’t help but flirt, even when he had no intention of following through.

“It’s okay, I have a boyfriend,” Eric assured him, chuckling as the man produced a noise resembling a squeak. “I’m not actually coming onto you. Unless you enjoyed it, in which case we could have had a nice afternoon flirt, but I’m destined for another.”

“I’m destined for New York,” the man replied.

Eric let go of his case and set a hand over his heart. “And I for Vegas. Thanks for your help,” he said.

“You’re very welcome,” the man replied, inclining his head and giving Eric one last sheepish grin before turning and moving off.

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