That’s right, after seven loooooong months, I have FINALLY finished These Haunted Heights and sent it off to my editor Kris at MLR Press. YAY and about damn time! Ron and Drew have taken over my life for way too long now. LOL.
In celebration, here is a very, very unedited excerpt from the book. Hope y’all enjoy it! Just remember Kris has not been at it yet, so please forgive any oopses :)
© Copyright 2010 Ally Blue
From behind his tripod, Ron snapped a shot of an enormous wave crashing into the hump of rock that rose from the water just offshore. He grinned. That one was going to be gorgeous.
Normally, he wasn’t a fan of storms. But he hadn’t been able to resist snapping his trusty camera into the waterproof casing he’d brought for just such an occasion and heading out into the elements to see what he could capture. He’d gotten some fantastic shots. Black clouds, angry black ocean, lashing rain, trees whipping in the wind, lightning that cut bright veins between sky and sea. He’d parked the tripod as close to the bluff’s edge as he dared, heart in his throat, and snapped shots as fast as his fingers would let him. It had been worth the risk for the quality of the pictures.
In fact, in the past week he’d gotten some of the most stunning photos he’d taken in ages. Maybe even in his whole career so far. Not that they’d all been developed yet, but the couple of rolls he’d developed so far were amazing. He’d walked all along the bluffs, south into Sebastian’s Bluff in its tiny bay and north to where the land rose rocky and wild, and he’d taken pictures nearly every step of the way. Hell, he’d shot half a roll of four by five Wednesday morning at the little hidden beach a couple miles north of his place, and nearly used up the rest of that plus some one-twenty on an abandoned cottage tucked into a stand of firs halfway between the beach and Aunt Marj’s. The melancholy vibe of the place just wouldn’t leave him alone until he’d shot it. Excursion would love those photos.
They’d given him the contract, just like he’d known they would. They’d emailed it Sunday afternoon and he’d sent it back with his virtual signature an hour later. Thank God for digital document signing services.
Ron straightened up. He’d just about exhausted the possibilities of this one spot. Time to move on. He unscrewed his camera from the tripod, snapped the lens cover in place and hooked it to the neck strap, then folded the tripod and zipped it into the inner pocket of his rain jacket.
Letting the camera dangle from his neck, Ron jammed his hands in his pockets and resumed his stroll north. He’d stayed close to the house during the storm, but the worst of it had passed now and he felt safe exploring. The cool breeze smelled of wet earth and the ocean. The only sounds were the patter of water from the tree branches and the boom of the sea against the cliffs.
It was so quiet here. So peaceful. Ron loved New York City, where he’d been born and raised and where he still lived, but “quiet” and “peaceful” were not words that applied to it. Not even his cozy little apartment in the Village.
He loved the silence here, the easy pace of things. Not for all the time, but for the short term, he liked the way it forced him to slow down for a change. It had been far too long since he’d felt this relaxed.
Especially since he’d stopped trying to catch whatever it was crying in the tower room at night and started playing ocean sounds on his iPhone all night to drown it out. He slept a hell of a lot better when he could tell himself the eerie noise was nothing but his imagination.
As he walked, the sun dipped below the ragged hem of the clouds to light the sea and sky blood red. Ron stopped to snap pictures until his film ran out. He changed the roll—he never went anywhere without an extra in his pocket—but by the time he got it done the sunset had faded to drizzly gray twilight and he realized it would soon be dark. He wrinkled his nose when he realized he hadn’t brought any twelve-hundred, or even any one thousand. Nothing he considered good enough for night shots.
“Aw, hell.” He gazed back toward the house, then out to sea, gnawing his thumbnail. He swiveled to look north. And froze.
Not twenty yards away was the cottage he’d photographed three days before. Between the cottage and the cliff stood a man with bare toes in the scrubby grass and hands stuffed in the back pockets of his threadbare jeans, gazing at the churning ocean like it knew something he didn’t.
Ron stared. He hadn’t realized he was that close to the cottage, or that anyone was home.
If he’d had any idea just who was home all this time, he’d have come over earlier.
He couldn’t tell much in the waning light, but what he saw, he liked. The stranger’s faded jeans and ratty long-sleeved T-shirt hugged a long, lean body that Ron would bet his last dollar was honed by hard work rather than gym equipment. The wind tugged strands loose from a short ponytail and whipped them around a strong jaw and straight nose. He seemed lost in his own thoughts, and didn’t appear to have noticed Ron.
Lifting his camera, Ron took off the lens cap and framed a shot of the stranger’s face. He zoomed in. God, yes. Those were lips a guy could kiss all day long. The rest of the man’s face was all angles, sharp bordering on harsh, but that mouth… Christ. The way his bottom lip curved cancelled out the severity of the rest of his features. He had long eyelashes, too, thick and dark, framing a pair of large eyes whose color Ron couldn’t make out.
No one could call the man handsome in any conventional sense. But something about him—his bare feet in the grass, his stillness, or maybe just the heartbreakingly beautiful curve of his lips—drew Ron irresistibly anyway.
He didn’t consider it any further than that. His finger pressed downward. The camera clicked. And the stranger’s head swiveled toward him, even though the man couldn’t possibly have heard over the wind. Maybe the dying light caught the camera lens or something. In any case, the eyes with the long, dark lashes zeroed in on Ron and focused.
He thought maybe they were hazel.
The stranger started moving toward Ron, long legs covering the distance fast. “Hey! Who the fuck are you?”
Ron backed up a few paces before he caught himself and stopped. Damn, but the man was intimidating when he was angry. Fumbling the lens cap back on, Ron plastered on his brightest smile as the other man approached. “My name’s Ron Winters. I’m staying about a mile or so south of here.” He ignored his hammering heart and stuck out his hand as the stranger stopped a few feet in front of him. “It’s very nice to meet you. What’s your name?”
For several seconds the man just stared at him with a strange blend of anger, sadness and an unmistakable hunger that made Ron want to squirm and look away. He had no idea what to make of it. He was on the verge of dropping his hand and making a run for it when the man took his hand and shook as if it were some sort of grim duty. “Drew LaSalle.” He let go of Ron’s hand like it burned him. “Did you just take my picture?”
“Uh. Yeah.” Ron swallowed as Drew’s expression darkened. “I’m sorry, I’m a professional photographer and you… you have a wonderful face. It won’t be published without your written permission.” Ron edged a little closer, looking to trade on the attraction he knew damn well he’d seen in the quick downward dip of Drew’s gaze. “I’m doing a photo shoot for Excursion Magazine in New York. If you’d like your picture in the article, I have permission forms back at the house.”
Drew jaw tightened visibly, even in the deepening gloom. “No.”
Crap. “Um. Okay.” Nervous now, Ron raked a hand through his hair, still dripping from the earlier rain. Drew’s eyes followed the movement. His tongue came out to wet his lips, those damn perfect lips, and dammit, he was getting Ron all confused. “Listen, I took some shots of your house the other day. No one was home, and I… I guess I thought no one lived there…” He trailed off when Drew’s eyebrows shot up. “Yeah, that was stupid. I’m sorry. Look, you don’t have to sign the permission forms, and obviously I won’t use the shots if you don’t, but I have to say, I sure would love it if you did. This place is awesome.”
Drew was shaking his head before Ron even finished talking. “No. No pictures of me or my place.”
Ron thought of the way the shadows of the firs fell across the windows in the rear of the house. “Please.”
“No, goddammit.” Drew stepped close enough for Ron to smell stale sweat and whiskey. “Now fuck off.”
Staring up into the angry face nearly a whole head above his own, Ron knew he ought to leave before he got himself into trouble. Drew was bigger than him, stronger than him, and maybe a little drunk. Maybe more than a little. It was hard to tell with some people. But Ron had seduced enough men to tell when a guy wanted him, and this guy did. Not that it mattered, really, since Drew seemed determined not to act on it.
“All right. I’ll leave. I should get back before it gets too dark, anyway.” His pulse racing, Ron leaned in just a little bit and gazed up at Drew in a way that said clear as day that he was available if Drew chose to take him up on it. “Maybe I’ll see you around, huh?”
This time, the downward path of Drew’s gaze was obvious. When that intense stare locked onto Ron’s eyes again, he wished he had the guts to take off his rain jacket and let Drew see the hard-on forming in his jeans.
For a second, he thought Drew might actually touch him. He held his breath.
Drew’s brow furrowed. “Be careful walking back to… wherever. It’s easy to get too close to the edge in the dark.” He backed up a pace, turned and walked away.
Ron stood there with his legs shaking and watched until Drew disappeared into the blackness under the trees. The sound of the cottage door banging shut rose above the rush of the wind and the thunder of the waves. A moment later, a dim light shone through a shaded window in the rear of the house.
With no good reason to hang around any longer, Ron headed back along the dark path to his aunt’s house. He picked his way carefully, keeping well away from the edge, but his mind stayed on Drew. Wondering what accounted for the obvious anger, or the much less obvious air of resignation that surrounded him like fog. He intrigued Ron like no man had done in a long, long time.
Photos or not, Ron had a feeling he’d be walking north a lot in the coming days.
Written by Ally Blue
Ally is a rich and famous author of hot gay manlove. She travels the world in her private jet, being waited on hand and foot by her team of pretty young men who bring her umbrella drinks and make out for her pleasure . . . Okay, so that's her dream life. Her novels of Manlove & Angst are mostly written in her living room, in between working at the Evil Day Job and doing Mom Stuff. Oh, the glamorous life of an author!
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