MURDER AND SEX - OH YEAH!
Today's guest author is the amazing Clare London who writes Man to Man, and no one does it better. Clare has a new release, BLINDED BY OUR EYES. This is a well-crafted mystery that has received stellar reviews and a book you'll definitely want to read.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Clare, here's a brief bio:
Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant.
She's written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. Clare likes variety in her writing, while friends say she's just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she's happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Find details of her publications and plenty of free fiction at her website, as well as an invitation to her mailing list. You can also catch up with Clare on her blog. Visit her today and say hello!
BLINDED BY OUR EYES
London art dealer Charles Garrett has devoted his life to appreciating and acquiring beauty, both in art and in his companions. His fashionable life is rocked to the core when he discovers the body of a young artist, Paolo Valero, in a pool of blood in his gallery.
As Paolo’s mentor, Charles is haunted by the horror of his violent death. Seeking closure, he investigates Paolo’s past and soon discovers a tangled web of motives and potential suspects, some closer to home than he ever imagined. He’s drawn to Antony Walker, an aggressive, handsome sculptor with unsavory ties to Paolo. Charles is unsettled by Antony’s forceful nature but irresistibly attracted to his passion and his art.
When the evidence points toward Antony’s guilt, Charles is thrown into emotional turmoil. Has he lost his heart to a killer?
The sound of a man crying was the first shock. Deep, racking sobs echoing off the smooth walls of my showroom. The whole gallery was usually deserted and cool at this late hour, despite the urban truth that London never slept. Yet tonight something in the air resonated with tension. And huddled in the far corner was a slender, pale young man. Arms clenched around his drawn-up knees, his eyes hot and wet, staring at me through a fringe of bedraggled dark curls. He looked angry and scared, and for the first few seconds it was all directed at me.
Without thinking, I dropped my bag. I heard the thump as it hit the floor.
I’d never seen anyone who wasn’t a woman cry like this. The sound was strange, astonishingly loud and ugly, his breath rasping with each hiccup of anguish. His shoulders rose and fell awkwardly, the bones a shadowy silhouette under the thin fabric of his shirt, his knuckles white against the black fabric of his jeans.
How beautiful he still looked, how miserable yet how utterly fascinating. My thoughts disgusted me, yet at the same time I couldn’t deny them. As I stared back at him, the aggression in his eyes started to fade. Hope glinted there in its place.
Then I registered the blood on the floor around him. How the hell could I miss it? So much blood. It ran along the base of the far wall and pooled out over the floor, a shocking, plum-red stain on the pale wood. It was thick and unnaturally still, an occasional patch of it glistening under the dimmed overhead lights. Coagulated; no longer flowing. I had no idea how long ago it’d been fresh. The residue puddled around his bare feet and under his legs and arse, then slithered along the edge of the wall again, diverting around the base of a display case. I barely glanced at the case. It stood upright, but crooked as if broken, and the objects inside had been knocked over.
I just stared at the blood. Funny how these things strike you when you’re in shock; it was only after I noticed the mess that the smell hit me. Thick and putrid, seeping into my throat, daring me to gag. Why didn’t blood smell like this domestically? When I cut my hand, when I sliced meat? This was human blood in quantity, human life as it spilled. It had its own unique horror. Some of it had oozed between the young man’s toes—the dark crimson colour stark against the pale skin of his feet, a gruesome parody of piano keys. He sat like an island amongst a grisly sea, a pale shadow within the dark, viscous surround. When he put a hand out to the wall and started to ease himself up, I wanted to cry out, to tell him to stay still. I wanted to stop him spoiling the perfect, limpid surface around him, breaking the seal.
It was the shock made me think that way. Of course it was.
“Charles?” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been shouting. “God, I’ve never been so glad to see anyone in my life.” He took a couple of shaky steps toward me. His shoes and socks lay in a discarded pile against the wall, soaked red with the blood. I couldn’t take my eyes off the print left by his foot, a dark smudge on the area of clean floor behind him.
There were other footprints—messy, scattered marks on the floor beyond the display case. They weren’t all his. A large huddled object lay against the right-hand wall, half hidden behind the furniture. That area, too, was covered in blood. It wasn’t an object, of course it wasn’t. I was ashamed to have thought of it like one of my exhibits.
It was a body. The body of another young man, even paler, even more disturbed. Even more still.
Walker laughed again, but more softly. He’d made his coffee while still doing something with the tools on the table, gathering them up, putting them away in the wooden box. I couldn’t see around his torso, couldn’t see what his hands were doing in front of his body. I heard the bolt snap shut on the box and he turned back around.
“What are you doing there?” I said, too loudly. I didn’t seem to have full control of my voice. “Why are you bothering with that now? I just want to talk to you.” What are you hiding from me?
He just glared at me, his eyes dark and unwelcoming.
I glanced over at his work in progress. “What kind of themes do you work with, Walker? Did you work with Paolo? He’s…he was a very talented sculptor.” Is that why you were together—as artists? Or was your relationship something else? Something fierce…
“He was a shit,” Walker growled, shaking his head.
His bluntness shocked me. “That’s—what the hell do you mean?”
His eyes narrowed. “You think people shouldn’t speak ill of the dead? Paolo Valero leeched off people. He was pretty and he was talented, but for all the time I knew him, he was a liar and a thief.”
I was stunned. “Money?”
“He stole money, yeah. And materials. And ideas.” Walker sighed. “But he stole time and attention, too. From me—probably from you, too.”
“Why are you saying this? Why are you slandering him like this?”
For the first time I saw uncertainty in Walker’s expression. “You have no fucking idea, do you? It doesn’t mean I wasn’t his friend. Though plenty of people in this business will tell you he got everything he deserved.”
“What do you mean?” I nearly shouted.
Walker shook his head. His frown got deeper. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”
“Is that what happened with you and Paolo?” I persisted. “What did he steal from you? How much?” Maybe too much?
Walker gazed steadily back at me. “You look at everyone like that, Garrett?”
“What do you mean?”
He took a step toward me, threateningly, yet I didn’t move away. I couldn’t identify the expression in his eyes, but it chilled me. “I know guys like you, right? Dealers.” He made it sound like a disease. “You watch other people create, you give your critique, then you pimp the goods. Always on the outside, never really involved. You look around this room with cold eyes. You see a block of stone, you see banknotes, where I see breath and beauty.”
I was furious—suddenly, blindingly furious. “Who do you think you are? You arrogant shit.”
He didn’t even flinch. “And that’s the same look you’re turning on me now. Appraising me.”
I couldn’t speak, my throat was closing tight with the anger. He was right, I couldn’t tear my eyes from him, but it was from anger, not admiration, wasn’t it? Nothing to do with the fierce, sensual attraction that emanated from him, the way his dark eyes caught and fascinated my attention.
“You’re looking at me the same way you look at the stone.” He stepped even closer. A trickle of sweat ran from his throat down the middle of his bare torso. I imagined it pooling above his navel, glistening and bobbing as his belly clenched.
“I’m not.” That’s not me.
“No?” he murmured. He peered at me, sounding puzzled. “Then it’s something else…” His chest was heaving, as if he had the same difficulty breathing as I did. Behind him, the point chisel was still on the edge of the table. He hadn’t locked it away with the other tools. Its handle was a foot from his grasp.
“Get away from me,” I whispered.
He frowned. “Say that again. And this time like you mean it.” He was still searching my face, but now his expression was confused, as if he’d lost whatever he was seeking. And then his eyes slid away from my face to my chest and down the whole of my body, slowly and carefully. When his gaze came back up, lingering for too long on my groin, I blanched. The sexual intent was never in any doubt.
And my body shuddered in response.
He looked back up at me and his hand lifted from his side as if he meant to reach out and touch something.
I stepped back. “Get away,” I repeated, sharply.
His eyebrows rose. He looked both startled and disappointed. “Yeah, just like I said. “Cold. You’re never going to melt that, Garrett, fucking men like pretty, passive Joseph. He’s never going to give you what you need.” He laughed without humour.
I lurched back another few steps, finally released from my strange paralysis. My escape from this room was only a few feet away, in seconds I could be out of the door and back down the stairs to the street.
“I can’t believe all this about Paolo.” I stared into Walker’s eyes, the pupils dilated. I could feel the door frame at my back now, I was brave in the face of my retreat. “Why do you talk about him like that? You want me to be as angry with him as you are. Were. Why?”
“Were you fucking him?” I cried, and he recoiled. Had I struck a nerve? “Did you want revenge for whatever he’d done to you? Did he make you angry enough to want to hurt him?”
“None of that is your goddamn business,” he snarled. “I said, get the fuck out or else I—”
I dodged back before he could follow up his threat, away from him, my hand reaching blindly for the door handle. I stumbled out onto the landing. Not bothering with dignity or pride, I just dashed down the stairs two at a time. I felt an idiot, and a ridiculously scared one, too.
I'll be back tomorrow with information on a wonderful celebration. :) Until then...
Sweet as Honey...Hotter than Hell