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A sneak peak at Chapter 1
Impatiently, Val flipped his powder-blue locks over his shoulder, tapping the little whisk broom against the counter where his supplies were arranged neatly. "Derek, you left me standing around at Paul's for an hour, a place I totally hate by the way, without even a phone call to say you weren't coming, and then I walk past you playing ball in the park with your friends on the way back here. I'm not overreacting!"
He ran a swift eye over his supplies. Scissors, combs, spray bottle with water, gel, mousse, everything seemed in order. While he prepared his workstation, he listened with half an ear to the deep voice on the other end of the phone, trying to explain or rationalize or whatever, but he wasn't into hearing what Derek had to say. The guy was an immature jerk who put his own wants ahead of everything, even if it meant leaving Val standing in a group of young college kids he barely knew, in a bar he usually avoided like the plague. He'd gone to the party in the first place for Derek. Being stood up while doing something so selfless just pissed him off. Just once in a relationship, Val wanted to find a guy who put him first, who loved him more than sports, friends, and all the other temptations the wicked world offered. "Just forget it, Derek. You don't get it. It's not just last night; it's the whole last few months."
More rumbling and babbling in his ear. He ran a dust cloth over the client's chair and then adjusted its height. Prepping his station at the salon was second nature and required little of his attention. Kind of like listening to Derek. Why the fuck do I listen to this shit? Derek had all the emotional understanding of a two-ton truck. Cute as hell, but clueless about what would melt Val's heart. In fact, Derek might accurately be called a little dense altogether. A little consideration, a romantic gesture or two, would go a long way. Hell, an apology instead of an excuse would probably have gotten him a second chance even this morning. Eh. Who are you kidding? Derek is a symptom, not the illness itself. "Fuck off, Derek. It's over. Do me a favor and lose my number, okay?"
Flipping the phone shut, he shoved it into the pocket of his smock and busied himself cleaning up his workspace. A quick spray of glass cleaner to the mirror, a swipe or two with a rag and he was done. Done with Derek, done with men, done with romance and love and sex, and fuck it all. He could be celibate. Masturbation didn't count as sex, did it? He'd need something if he wasn't getting any.
"Hey, Smurfette, your professor is here."
It happened. Just like that. Ted's sarcastic statement, delivered in his superior nasal twang, made Val's vow of celibacy probably the shortest in history. He put down the small whisk broom he'd been using to clean up his already spotless workstation and dusted his hands off on his powder-blue smock. The smock he had chosen deliberately to match his hair this morning because it highlighted his eyes and skin tone, even though he knew wearing it would invite Ted to make Smurf comparisons,. He'd only just made the solemn promise to himself to take a break from men and get his head screwed on straight before venturing back into the dating arena. He'd been celibate for all of five minutes maybe, if you didn't count the previous six days when he could have had sex if he wanted to with Derek, but he hadn't because he didn't. Want to, that is.
He'd almost forgotten about his regular ten fifteen appointment with Adrian Grey. Val shook his head. He knew better than that. That would be a lie and Valentine Michaels knew better than to lie. He did it so very badly. He could never completely forget about
. They'd been friends for nearly ten
years, since they were roommates in the dorm freshman year at NCU. Heck, for a
few brief days, they'd been something more than friends, even. Though he didn't
usually primp like this for his exes. Adrian
Adrian Grey, though hot as hell, exemplified everything Val was not looking for in a man. Where Val liked big, muscular men who towered over him, Adrian was only an inch or so taller than he was. Val preferred blonds, but
wore his straight black hair cut long enough to curl under his jawline in front
and curved higher in back to meet the university library's requirement that all
male employees wear their hair above the collar. The wire-rim glasses he wore
on a fine rope around his neck gave him a distracted air of intelligence and
emphasized the almost delicate aspect of his refined features. His jawline was
smooth and silky, whereas Val preferred the sexy appeal of rough, two-day
said successful, young professional. Adrian
was solid, dependable, and reliable. All those -able words that no one had ever applied to Val. There was
intelligence in those blue eyes, and humor in the tilt of that rosy mouth, and
sexy didn't begin to describe his lean, firmly muscled body. Adrian
"He's a librarian, you ass," he snapped at Ted. "And he's not my type." Type or not, Val found himself checking out his hair in the mirror, adjusting the powdery blue strands as he bit then licked his lips. Ah, well, he was a beautician, wasn't he? He had to look good, even for the clients who didn't want something creative in their personal look. Surreptitiously he breathed on his hand, checking his breath, and swiped his lips with a tube of clear gloss he pulled from the pocket of his smock. And, he reasoned triumphantly, he could appreciate beauty where he saw it for the exact same reason! And
was beautiful in
his geeky way. Adrian
He looked up and met
eyes in the mirror as the other man strode to the reception desk to receive his
share of the crap that Ted dished out without prejudice. Mmm. That blue oxford really brings out the sparkle in Adrian 's eyes, doesn't it? Adrian
"Come on back, I'm all ready for you." You have no idea how ready, he snickered inside as he spun the chair and waved
to sit. Adrian
He always chatted away while trimming
. It wasn't like he needed to
concentrate in order to trim Adrian 's
hair into the same style he'd been wearing for the past six years. He rolled
his eyes. Another thing about Adrian Adrian that was so
not his type:
resisted change. He even used the same fucking cell phone he'd had in college. Val
used to try to convince Adrian Adrian to try a new cut
once in a while, but
liked what he liked and refused all offers to dye, cut or curl his hair into
something other than the style he already wore. The chat kept him distracted
from the heat of Adrian 's
body and the enticing scent of his cologne. It prevented his imagination from
running away with him. In the past, the conversation had served as a reminder
to himself that Adrian
was off-limits. Adrian
Gesturing slightly with his scissors and comb, he asked, already knowing what the answer would be, "So, are you going to let me cut this in a different style for you today?"
simply shook his head and seated himself in the waiting chair. Adrian
said, when Val found himself tongue-tied for the first time in their long
history of Friday morning haircuts, "what's new in your life? Or should I
say, who's new in your life? Ted just told me you broke up with Derek." Adrian
Val flushed. Was that really the impression he'd given of himself? He came off as the kind of guy who couldn't last a week without a lover?
A bit hurt, he snapped, "What? Like I always have to have a boyfriend? There's no one right now. After that dumb shit Derek, I'm taking a break from men for a while."
"Sorry. Just what exactly do you mean by taking a break from men?" The other man seemed bewildered for some reason.
"I mean," he declared dramatically, tossing his head, "I've taken a vow of celibacy. I'm swearing off men, drama, and love."
Val gasped. "Oh, that was uncalled for! I'm not exactly heartbroken, just reevaluating where I stand on some issues. I'm tired of leading such a messy life. I need to figure myself out before I get involved with anyone else."
apologized. "I shouldn't tease you. It's just that I've known you since we
were freshmen at the university, and ever since then, for ten years, you've
always had a boyfriend—usually some muscle-bound, superhero jock-type." Adrian
Sighing, Val stilled his hands and met
's eyes in the mirror. There was
sympathy in the blue depths, but more, there lurked something indecipherable
that he hadn't seen before. "It's not just Derek, Adrian ." He confessed in a low voice. "It's
all of it. Everything. The shop bores me. The bars and clubs are filled with
younger and younger people every time I go, and I'm like a babysitter, or God
forbid, my mother. Have you heard that crap they call music now?" He shook
his head and went back to trimming fractions of hair from silky black locks and
brushing strays from the blue oxford collar. Finished, he put aside the tools
of his trade. Adrian
Val stared as the other man turned and left the salon, brushing stray hairs from his shirt as he did so. Down, boy. He glared at his cock where it arched up beneath the buttons of his 501s. He's not your type, remember? No amount of lecturing could convince his dick though. Maybe type was one of the things he'd need to reevaluate. He tossed the number in the trash, almost hoping
would see him do it. Like he needed it. He'd had that phone number memorized
for ten years. Not that he used it. Who needed a phone call when Adrian arrived every
Friday, regular as clockwork? Slowly he wandered to the front of the shop, past
Ted in his black, horn-rimmed glasses and bleach-splattered clothing, and on out
the door, starting as he realized he was following Adrian . Adrian
Available soon from Breathless Press