4/20/2013

Looking Over the Backlist: The Librarian: New Extended Excerpt


THE LIBRARIAN
Available at 




Valentine Michaels has just taken a vow of celibacy. Adrian Grey intends to take full advantage of that vow to re-create his relationship with Val.
Val is at a crossroads in his life. A college dropout, he's gone as far as he can in his career as a cosmetologist, owning his own style salon. He no longer finds satisfaction in it, though he's put years into proving to his bigoted parents that a college degree and the veneer of straightness aren't the only roads to success. They'd turned their backs on him, and he proved he didn't need them to make it.
His love life is no better than his working life. His relationships always start with a bang and fizzle into boredom, or worse, anger.
Adrian has his own agenda for helping Val: he's been in love with Val since they were freshmen. The intervening years of listening to Val's gossip about his lovers and relationships have taught Adrian just what it was he did wrong all those years ago, and he thinks this time around he now knows exactly how to get—and keep—his man.



EXTENDED EXCERPT

Prologue

Adrian sat on his bed, statistics book open in his lap, studying for the test he had in the morning. The subject matter fascinated him, but his attention kept drifting to the clock on the desk across the room. The closer midnight came, the more frequently his gaze returned to the red numbers. Where had Val gone? He'd said, but Adrian had barely listened, absorbed in his book. What if something had happened to him?
His hand drifted toward the cell phone on his night table, and he picked it up. He stared down at the little device, the latest technology available. His parents had bought it and brought it up to him with his clean laundry last Sunday. They'd been so proud of it, Dad explaining all the neat features of the phone, Mom insisting on snapping a few pictures of him with it.
Adrian had stayed in their dorm room since he'd left the library at five. Val hadn't called. He flipped the phone open and checked anyway. Fully charged, as always. No messages, no calls. Except the three from his mother earlier, making sure he'd hung up the shirts she'd ironed for him, reminding him to keep the phone charged, and to eat vegetables with his dinner. He saved the messages. She would like that.
He tried to turn his attention back to his book and the test that loomed, but thoughts of what Val might be doing, and who he might be doing it with, kept intruding. They hadn't made any commitments, but he and Val had shared a bed for the past week, and he'd known he loved Val since October, when he'd kissed his blue-haired roommate for the first time. A spontaneous, awkward, drunk kiss during a dorm Halloween party, neither he nor Val had mentioned it when they sobered up the next day, though Adrian treasured the memory as the most wonderful kiss he'd ever experienced.
That had been a month ago, and in the last few weeks Val had broken up with his boyfriend, and Adrian secretly thrilled to hold his friend and offer support. One thing had led to another, one fumbling kiss to a caress, the caress to sex. From that night on, they had slept here together, exploring and learning each other's bodies, wants, and desires.
But this morning, Val had mumbled something about not waiting up for him. Adrian, too busy rushing to get ready for class and his upcoming exam, paid Val little attention. Now he wished he had. It might have saved him this anxious, sharp pain in his stomach, the heaviness of his heart. Events were scheduled all over campus. He had no chance of finding Val at any of them. Pep rallies, concerts, lectures, study groups. He wouldn't even recognize any of Val's punky friends if he ran into them.
The thump of feet in the hallway stopping outside their door drew his attention. His gaze fastened on the door and he heard the click of Val's key in the lock as the knob turned. The sight of his roommate's flushed cheeks, plump, red, kiss-swollen lips, and crazily mussed blue hair sent his heart plummeting and his stomach churning. He swallowed to keep from throwing up, and forced himself to speak.
"Where have you been?" Adrian cringed at the whiny need in his voice.
Val's head turned in slow, languid fashion and Adrian flinched. Fuck. He tried the word out inside his head, ignoring the heat along his cheekbones. His mother would freak if he ever said it out loud. It fit though. He knew that look. Val had just that look when he came. When Adrian sucked his cock, or stroked him to orgasm, he looked exactly like that: sated, flushed, and happy. But Adrian hadn't put that look there tonight.
Val's eyes lit up when he saw Adrian watching him, and he stumbled forward to collapse in a heap across the neatly folded quilt Adrian's grandma had hand stitched for him as a graduation gift. "I'm in love." He moaned, twisting onto his side gingerly to face Adrian.
Adrian struggled to keep his face interested and not show his devastation. He was in love too. "You went on a date?"
Val nodded, his eyes drifting closed dreamily. "He's so awesome, Adrian. He's on the football team. Blond hair, blue eyes, the broadest shoulders..." Voice trailing dreamily away, Val's own blue-eyed gaze snapped up and locked on Adrian's. "And man, he's got skills. I've never felt like that before."
Adrian nodded, keeping an encouraging look on his face, and he closed the statistics book in his lap. No studying would happen now. He listened, his heart breaking slowly, as Val described his new boyfriend in elaborate detail.

Chapter One

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 Adrian. 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 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 Adrian 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 stubble.
Everything about Adrian 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.
"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 Adrian was beautiful in his geeky way.
He looked up and met Adrian's 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?
"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 Adrian to sit.
He always chatted away while trimming Adrian. 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 that was so not his type: Adrian resisted change. He even used the same fucking cell phone he'd had in college. Val used to try to convince Adrian to try a new cut once in a while, but Adrian 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.
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?"
As expected, Adrian simply shook his head and seated himself in the waiting chair.
"So," 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."
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."
Adrian jerked in the chair, and Val cursed. "Be still. You could end up with a new hairstyle whether you want one or not, jumping like that!"
"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."
Adrian laughed softly. "Oh. That'll last. The next pretty boy with bulging muscles who strolls through that door for a haircut, or offers to buy you a drink at the bar, and you'll be back in the game, heartbreak forgotten."
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."
"I'm sorry." Adrian 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."
Sighing, Val stilled his hands and met Adrian'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 rose from his chair and scribbled something on a card he pulled from his shirt pocket. "Here's my cell number. Call me anytime if you need someone to listen or want to get together."
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 Adrian 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.

Chapter Two

Adrian stepped out of the salon into the bright sunshine of a perfect Colorado spring day. In the time since he'd entered the salon, the sky glowed bluer, the grass greener, the clouds more perfectly cottony white than ever. The mingled scents of fresh-cut grass and newly opened blossoms wafted gently to his quivering nostrils. Something he'd kept locked away for years had been let loose, and his mind raced, heart beating frantically to keep pace. He tried to still the wild surges of emotion that rushed through his body, heart and soul. Val was flaky. Whatever he said, he could well be in love before lunchtime.
Adrian trembled with impatient emotion. His hand shook so badly he almost couldn't open the door of his car, the ever-faithful, ever-reliable gray 1993 Acura Integra, christened Myrtle by his high school buddy, Shane. His parents had researched fuel efficiency and reliability before selecting the car as his sixteenth birthday present. In the thirteen years since, he'd kept it pristine and running smoothly. No sense replacing something that functioned so beautifully, was there?
He'd sensed Val's interest in him today, for the first time in years, despite his avowals of abstinence. A vague sensation of heat had radiated from Val and he had absorbed it like a sponge.
He now had a distinct advantage in the waiting game he'd been playing with Val since freshman year. Years' worth of chatty confessions about what Val liked and didn't like in a lover would guide his own courtship. And the other man had just cleared the field for him with his intention to stay out of the dating scene. A Val who wasn't even looking to hook up, didn't have someone waiting on the side, and seemed strangely vulnerable, was a Val that Adrian could work with, not like the flip, sexually confident, blindly selfish Val he'd been friends with all these years.
Adrian started the car and looked into his rearview mirror, hoping for another glimpse of Val through the shop windows of Sherri's Hair. He didn't quite get why Val hadn't changed the name when he'd bought it. In fact, Val hadn't changed anything about the shop when he'd bought it as far as Adrian could tell. It still had the same cracked vinyl chairs and lavender paint that had graced it the first day Adrian had gone in. He knew he'd paused too long when Val appeared in the doorway of the shop, and seemed to be looking after him.
Behind Val he noted the For Lease sign on the building next door. How simple a solution to Val's problem was that? If he was bored with his business, then he could always lease the shop next door and expand. A full-service salon with tanning booths, piercing studio and a permanent makeup artist...Yes. This would make an excellent segue into another meeting with Val. And...he could always offer to help. That would allow them to spend even more time together. He'd painted his fair share of rooms out on the small-town, Colorado ranch his parents owned.
Still in a reverie, he pulled the gray sedan out into the minimal flow of traffic and headed back down the street to the university. His job in the archives of the business library was interesting and had great potential for upward movement. He enjoyed it. It also gave him ample time to do his research, write his articles, and contemplate which Ph.D. program he wanted into. He'd finally decided, narrowing the options down to three, and sent in his applications a few months ago. He looked forward to the challenges furthering his education would bring. The lull in activity, no articles contracted, no application or research to deal with, left him with a down period. For a while, anyway. It also provided him with ample time to contemplate the direction of his seduction.
Pulling into his parking space in the reserved employee lot behind the library, he shut off the engine and grabbed his planner. He printed a neat list on the page dated for today, underneath the notation for his haircut. He snorted when he saw it. Every Monday morning he wrote that appointment in for Friday morning in ink. Not that he needed the reminder to go get his hair cut. It was just the permanence of the ink and the sight of Val's name. It grounded him throughout the week to know that he had that to look forward to.
He relied on that appointment with a ferocity that almost scared him sometimes. He knew exactly how each appointment would go, and they played and replayed in his mind during the days between appointments. Ted would announce his arrival; Val would offer to cut his hair differently. He would refuse. He shook his head, enjoying the sensual slide of silky hair across his cheek. Every Friday he refused and Val hadn't even the slightest idea why. He seemed to forget that he had designed this cut expressly for Adrian when he'd accepted his job in the university library years ago.
Adrian had been excited by the job offer; it was a step in the right direction for a candidate in the Master's of Library Science program, but the university dress code for staff had mandated that his long black hair had to go. Though thrilled with the offer, he'd been reluctant to cut the hair he'd been growing since freshman year. It had been his first Friday morning appointment with Val, before Val owned the shop, even. Val had coaxed him into the chair and chattered away through the cutting process to distract him as the long locks fell to the floor, one by one. Adrian had kept his eyes locked on Val in the mirror, refusing to contemplate the loss of his one claim to rebellion.
He hadn't realized what Val had done until he'd finished and handed him the mirror. His black hair had been left slightly longer around his face and cut to the university's above-the-collar requirement in back. The cut fulfilled the university's demands, but it also acknowledged the deep-seated, seldom-seen need to express himself that led Adrian to grow his hair long in the first place.
Like he'd ever let Val take back that gift! He'd keep the cut until he got to keep the man.
Speaking of which, he needed to plan. He needed to keep Val off balance, keep him interested like he'd been this morning, to show him the Adrian he'd grown into instead of the Adrian he used to be.
And who, he asked himself, do you want Val to see? The lovesick fool who's pined over a man he couldn't have for ten years? No. Not so much that Adrian. Let's keep that one inside for a while longer. He would show Val the Adrian who had listened to his complaints, the one who knew that Val wanted to be romanced, mastered, loved, not just fucked.
The conversations he'd been gritting his teeth through for years gave him all the information he needed to do just that.
He reached for his cell phone to call his mom, but remembered just in time. Couldn't do that anymore. When would he remember that? He picked up the phone, the same one his parents had bought him years ago. Everyone, and by everyone he meant Val and Phil, told him he should replace it with a newer model, one with apps, and Internet access, and a whole lot of other foolishness. He always laughed them off with a "why fix what isn't broken" speech, but while in the past that had been the truth, now this phone had something no newer, more modern phone would ever have.
It had been chosen for him by his parents, and they'd been so excited about it. But beyond that, he flipped the phone open and scrolled through messages before finding the one he wanted. The phone was like a voice from beyond the grave for him. Those messages he'd dutifully saved years ago were his connection to his mom and dad, who'd been gone now for over three years. Three years ago, on their way to see him, bringing him clean laundry and home-cooked meals for his freezer, their vehicle had been run off the road by a car full of drunken college boys on their way home from a football game.
His mother's sweet, loving voice chattered away in his ear. "Tell Val we enjoyed meeting him, and you keep me posted on how things work out with that boy! Dad and I love you. Take care!"
"I will, Mom. I love you too," he whispered into the phone, responding as always as though he were talking to her in the flesh. After carefully hitting resave to extend the life of the message once again, he folded the phone and slipped it into his pocket, patting the pocket to make sure it was secure. He'd need it to call the flower shop, where he would find the perfect single bloom to send to Val. Something exotic and vibrant that was not a rose or a daisy. He remembered Val's snide comments about boyfriends of the past who'd sent flowers.
His mother would be pleased if he and Val managed to get it right this time around. She'd always liked his roommate, and even counseled him to be patient and maintain his friendship with Val after that night years ago. For years, on many a Saturday morning in the old ranch house kitchen, he poured his heartaches and fancies into her ear, telling her the things he wanted to tell Val, absorbing her love and comfort in return.
Now, he had the opportunity he'd been so patiently waiting for, the chance his mother had assured him would one day arrive, and he intended to make the most of it.


REVIEWS 


·         Sensual Reads 4.5 Stars Fantastic heroes, some amazing loving and a happy ending are the answers you can find in The Librarian by Lee Brazil. -Reviewed by Elise
·         Coffee Beans and Love Scenes 4 cups I loved Adrian! There was more to the mild mannered librarian than what met the eye. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all of his multiple layers being uncovered. There was just an abundance of alpha goodness wrapped in a geeky package... The Librarian is a credit to Lee Brazil’s writing talent. ... I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Librarian to judge for yourself. - Reviewed by Pechedete
·         MM Good Book Reviews – 5Hearts "... one of the best seductions ever written.  Adrian has waited ten years for the man he loves to get a clue.  Since that obviously isn’t happening, Adrian takes matters into his own hands.  Poor Val doesn’t know what hit him.  I almost wanted to feel sorry for Val, but he has spent so many years looking for love in all the wrong places.  A sneak attack was definitely in order.  Adrian might be the title character, but this is really the story of Valentino’s seduction.  And the beautiful thing was that most of that seduction was with their clothes on.  The lovin’ is hot and I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much, while reading a book. Highly recommend. Reviewed by Portia
·         Black Raven's Reviews 5 Ravens and a Recommended Read The Librarian is the exact opposite of a m/m romance with a quick pick-up at a bar that is love at first sight. Instead, Lee Brazil offers the story of men who have known one another for many years, and  the time has come for them to either be able to work through issues from the past, or move on, permanently... The themes of unconditional love, consistency and perseverance are beautifully developed in The Librarian. -Reviewed by Lea
·         Two Lips Reviews 5 Kisses -The Librarian by Lee Brazil is a story of friendship, love, and learning to understand yourself. Val has a long journey in this book; he has to go from being a self-centered person, to actually growing up and learning to think of others...You can feel that Adrian was born with an old soul from the first pages of this story.  He knows what he wants out of life, but is wise enough to understand that Val needs to grow and learn too.  This sweet sensual friendship makes their love so much more meaningful. I loved watching these two grow up and learn to be the men they were meant to be. -Reviewed by Tina

1 comment:

Be Yourself

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955