I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from my most recently published book, Bounty of Love. And don’t forget, “Foundation of Love,” the next in the “Love” series is scheduled for release in early December.
My books are available at www.amazon.com and www.dreamspinnerpress.com.
“D, we’re going to be late!” Alexander Walsh yelled to his fiancé, who was standing in their walk-in closet fumbling with his tie in front of the full-length mirror. Alexander nervously looked down at the gold Rolex wrapped around his wrist. “We have exactly forty-seven minutes to pick up my parents and get to the church, or we’re going to be late for our own wedding rehearsal.”
“Zander, please stop rushing me,” Darren Jordan anxiously pleaded as he stepped into the doorway. He had one arm in the jacket of his black Armani suit and the other reaching back for the opposite sleeve. He slipped his jacket up onto his shoulders and attempted to again adjust his gold silk tie. “I used to tie a perfect knot every morning, but today I can’t get this damn thing right; please help me.”
Zander stood with his hands folded across his chest and stared at the man he was lucky enough to be marrying at six o’clock the next evening. No matter how many times Zander had told him, Darren had no idea just how good-looking he actually was, or the effect he had on Zander’s fluttering heart, not to mention other parts of his anatomy.
“Wow!” Zander raked an appreciative gaze up and down at his future husband. “You look like you just stepped right off of the cover of our old magazine.”
Darren and Zander had started Gentlemen’s Style magazine right out of college, and three months ago to the day, they’d sold the magazine to an independent New York publishing house for an ungodly amount of money. When the sale was finally complete, they’d agreed to wait until after the wedding to decide what they wanted to do next, so they were pretty much men of leisure.
“Zander, please stop teasing me. I’m nervous enough as it is. Just get over here and help me with this damn tie,” Darren begged with a slight grin on his handsome face.
Zander stepped up and barely had time to reach for the knot of Darren’s tie when Darren intercepted both of his hands and gently brought them to his chest. Darren stepped up on his tiptoes and covered Zander’s lips with his own. Not a hungry, desperate kiss like they sometimes shared when they were in the heat of passion, but a slow, warm, tender kiss, saying everything that needed to be said.
Zander’s body started to tingle and blood quickly rushed to his groin. His smile was sly as he looked into Darren’s eyes. “Keep that up and we will be late,” he said with a wink. “Very late.”
Darren pulled away from the kiss and smiled. “Very funny! Now step back. It’s my turn to get a look at you.”
“Okay,” Zander said as he ruffled the top of Darren’s hair like he did ten times a day.
“Hey, watch the hair,” Darren protested. “I’m going to a rehearsal dinner, remember.”
Zander smiled and posed for a second then even threw in a little spin to give him the full effect. It was Darren’s turn to whistle this time. Zander was wearing black wool slacks, a black turtleneck, and a black-and-white houndstooth jacket, perfectly tailored for his tall, slender but muscular body. “You look incredible,” Darren whispered. “I can’t believe how lucky I am to be walking down the aisle with you on my arm tomorrow night.”
Zander placed a quick kiss on Darren’s full lips. “Ditto,” he exclaimed. “Now, we better get going or we won’t know what to do tomorrow night, and that would make my mother very unhappy.”
“And we certainly don’t want to disappoint Patty,” Darren said. “She’s been looking forward to your wedding since the day you were born.”
“I’m not sure this is the wedding she had in mind,” he said, chuckling, “but you know they’ve done pretty well with all of this, especially my dad.”
“They love you, Zander, and all they really want is for you to be happy.”
“I know,” he agreed. “And I love them too.”
Darren stared into his eyes and then dropped his head. Zander placed his finger under his chin and lifted Darren’s head until they were again eye to eye. “I’m sorry your parents can’t be there tomorrow,” he whispered.
“Can’t and won’t are two different things,” Darren corrected as a tear slid down his cheek. “It was their choice and there’s really nothing I can do about it.” He suddenly straightened up and smiled. “But… I’m not going to let them spoil this for us. Tomorrow is going to be the happiest day of my life, with or without them there.”
Zander nodded and kissed away his tears.
“Now, Mr. Walsh,” Darren said. “Get me to the church on time.”
Zander drove their Range Rover up to the gate of his parents’ estate and punched in the four-digit security code. The massive black wrought iron gate started to slowly open, and Zander began the half-mile drive up the road leading to the main house.
“You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this,” Darren said.
“What, the gate opening and closing?” Zander chuckled.
“No, silly.” Darren smiled. “Living this lifestyle and everything that goes along with being a senator’s son-in-law.”
“I know what you mean,” Zander admitted. “I felt the same way when my parents brought me here for the first time. Even after we moved in, every time I drove down this road I still felt like I was driving up someone else’s driveway.”
Darren smiled as he watched the tall trees and well-manicured lawns slowly pass by.
“But I’ll bet being the son of Senator John W. Walsh and Mrs. Patricia Simcox Walsh, Esquire has had its privileges.”
“Oh yeah,” Zander replied. “But I often wonder what it would have been like growing up in a nonpolitical family. You know, a little ranch house in Michigan with a dad who was a blue-collar worker and a stay-at-home mom who cooked dinner for us every night.”
“Well, as you already know,” Darren said, “it’s not that far from where I came from, and look where it got me—disowned and cast aside for being in love with an incredible man.”
Zander reached over and again ruffled the hair on Darren’s head. “We’re both products of our raising, but I think we turned out pretty well, don’t you?”
“You make an excellent point, my soon-to-be husband,” Darren agreed as he placed his hand on top of Zander’s.
The road finally ended at a large circular driveway surrounding a huge stone fountain. Zander pulled up behind a sparkling silver Jaguar XJ parked in front of an impressive stucco mansion. Before he could put the SUV in park, the huge double doors opened and his mother elegantly stepped out onto the landing in a beaded emerald-green full-length halter-topped gown that screamed Vera Wang, who just happened to be one of her closest friends. Right on her heels, his father stepped out wearing an expertly tailored navy-blue suit with a handsome blue and silver necktie. He slipped his hand into hers, and they both waved.
John Walsh stepped up to the car, and Darren hit the button and rolled down his window. “It’s about time you lovebirds got here,” his dad joked. “What do you say we take the Jag? That way if you boys want a drink or two, you won’t have to worry about driving.”
Darren looked at Zander, and they both nodded their heads. “Okay by us.”
“Good, then let’s get a move on. I have a son getting married tomorrow.”
Zander looked at his father and smiled, and John smiled back. He dropped his car keys in the console as he and Darren stepped out of the car and headed for the landing. His mom disappeared into the house, and thirty seconds later she reappeared and stood in the open doorway. “How do I look?” she asked, throwing her faux white fox stole over her shoulder and allowing the fur to trail behind her. Zander and Darren stood in front of her and whistled. “You look really hot,” Darren teased.
She smiled broadly as she effortlessly stepped down onto the landing. “I knew there was a reason I loved you, sweetheart,” she teased back.
“Oh, what’s that?” he said.
“Your honesty,” she replied with a million-dollar smile.
She switched her rhinestone-studded clutch from one hand to the other and offered her free hand to her son.
“Escort your youthful fiftysomething mother to her waiting chariot,” she instructed.
“Fiftysomething!” Zander asked incredulously. “Oh my God, D, the wedding’s off. If she’s fiftysomething, then I’m only fifteen years old.”
His mom swatted him on the chest with her handbag. “Oh very funny. I had no idea you’d become a comedian. And after all the money we spent on your Ivy League education.”
“We need to get a move on,” his father yelled from the car.
“We’re coming, dear,” his mom replied.
“Oh, and Zander, thank you for getting a haircut.”
“Do you like it?” he asked as he preened a little, turning his head from side to side.
“You look very handsome. You boys are going to make the most handsome grooms ever.”
Zander took her hand, opened the car door, and helped her inside. He closed the door behind her, ran around to the other side of the car, and hopped into the backseat. He pushed over as close to Darren as he could without getting into his lap.
“St. James Cathedral, driver,” Zander said in a haughty tone. “And make it snappy.”
“Yes, sir,” his dad replied, and they all chuckled.
Of course the marriage wouldn’t be legal, but John and Patty had called in some serious favors and promised hefty offerings in the Sunday collections plate from now until the year 2099 to get the Catholic Church to allow the wedding of their homosexual son to take place in St. James Cathedral. And even after all of the donations and promises, the church still wouldn’t allow a priest to marry them, so they opted for a nondenominational minister to perform the ceremony.
The church rehearsal went off without a hitch, and everyone left knowing their roles for the next evening. The after-rehearsal dinner was at the Broadmoor Country Club and was a mix of Darren and Zander’s friends and a virtual who’s who in the political and legal world. Zander and Darren smiled diligently and shook hands and kissed cheeks until they were both exhausted. Just after the band played the last song and the lights came up ever so slightly, the guests started making their way to the front door.
John, Patty, Zander, and Darren stood in the foyer again, smiling and thanking everyone for coming. There was a break in the procession, and Patty turned to Zander and Darren with a very proud look on her face.
“You boys did a great job tonight, and I’m so proud of you both.”
“Thanks,” Darren whispered and bowed his head.
She quickly squeezed both of their hands and asked, “How’s my lipstick?”
Zander took a quick look. “You could probably use a touch-up.”
Zander and Darren silently watched as Patty’s slender hands with beautifully manicured fingernails reached into her purse and pulled out her lipstick. She applied first to the bottom lip then to the top and blotted both lips together. When she was finished, she turned to Darren. “Good?” she asked.
“You look beautiful,” he said. “I only wish….” His voice trailed off.
Patty threw her arms around Darren’s neck and said, “I know, sweetie. I’m sure they’re struggling with this right now and feeling just about as bad as you do, but I have no doubt they love you very much. And so do John and I. You’re like a second son to us, and we love you even more for making Zander so happy.” A small tear slid down Patty’s face, and she again reached into her purse and retrieved a tissue. She gently blotted the tear away and said, “Now look what you’ve done to my makeup.”
“You still look beautiful,” Darren said with a genuine smile. “And thank you, Patty. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
She squeezed him one last time. “Now let’s get these guests out of here so we can go home and I can get out of this corset.”
Darren looked at Patty with a questioning look.
She smiled and put her hands on her hips. “What? You think a woman my age looks this good naturally?” Darren chuckled. “ I love you.”
More guests started making their way to the door, so they smoothed the fronts of their outfits and plastered on another smile.
Eventually, with Patty, Zander, and Darren waving from the porte-cochère, John walked the last guests to their car, and they all watched the red taillights as they disappeared out of the parking lot. John returned and the four of them sat on the steps and took a deep breath while they waited for the valet to bring the Jag around.
“I think that was a huge success,” Darren exclaimed.
Zander wrapped an arm around Darren and pulled him close. “And I think you’re right, my handsome man.” He placed a kiss on his cheek.
The valet arrived as John helped Patty to her feet. She was now a good six inches shorter since she’d taken off her spiked Manolo Blahnik shoes. She flung her fur over one shoulder and her shoes over the other, and whined to her husband, “Home, my good man.”
“Can I drive, Dad?” Zander asked.
He noticed the look of confusion on his father’s face and smiled at him. “Remember when I first got my driver’s license and I persuaded you to let me play chauffeur and drive you around in the stretch limousine?”
A small smile crept onto John’s lips. “Sure, I remember. Security gave me hell for that one.”
“What?” Patty smacked John on the arm with her purse. “You let my sixteen-year-old only child drive a state-appointed limousine? You think security gave you hell. You’re just lucky I didn’t know anything about it. I would have shown you hell.”
John shrugged trying for innocent, but it didn’t work, and they all started laughing. His dad then turned serious. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Yeah,” his mom inquired, sending him that knowing look that always had him confessing his misdeeds when he was younger.
“I only had one glass of wine with dinner, and that was hours ago. Besides, it would be fun if Darren and I chauffeured you and Mom home this one last time.”
Patty and John looked at each other and shook their heads. “Okay, if you insist.”
“I insist,” Zander teased.
Zander tipped the valet and got behind the wheel while Darren opened the car door for Patty and John to slide in. During the drive home, they recapped the night by talking about the food and the guests, and how good it was to see so and so, and didn’t so and so look great, and wasn’t so and so’s speech just the funniest thing you’d ever heard.
Zander pulled up to the large gate for the second time in one night, and to his surprise it was already open. “Dad, why is the gate open?” he asked.
“Oh hell,” he mused. “The damn thing must be broken again. The repairman was just here a couple of days ago.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll have my secretary call him Monday morning,” Patty replied unworriedly. “It’s the weekend, so I don’t think any contracts will be put out on our lives until at least then.”
“Comforting thought,” his dad deadpanned.
They all chuckled as the Jag slowly proceeded up the road. Zander entered the circular drive, passed by his SUV, and stopped in front of the entrance of the house. Darren jumped out and again opened the car door for Patty and John, and they stepped out.
“You guys go into the house, and I’ll bring the car around and put it in the garage. See you inside in a few.” Darren walked around the car and stuck his head in the window and kissed Zander deeply on the lips. “I love you!”
“I love you more.”
“I’ll put some coffee on,” his mom called back as they all walked toward the front door.
“And I’ll get the brandy,” his dad added.
Darren ran around the car and joined Patty and John as they walked into the house.
Zander watched his family disappear into the house and thought about how lucky he was. He smiled as he put the car in drive and drove around to the garage. He pressed the button on the console above the rearview mirror and faintly heard the ca-chunk ca-chunk of the heavy motorized garage door as it lifted, exposing a pristine wood-paneled garage. He carefully pulled in next to his mother’s Mercedes and put the car in park. He pressed the button again, and the doors slowly started to close behind him. He opened the car door and put one foot out and was startled by the unnerving sound of a very loud pop. What the hell? He could only liken the noise to the sound of a car backfiring or a muffled gunshot, and panic started to creep along his nerves. The short hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up as he threw his other foot out of the car, and he heard a second pop. This time the blood drained out of his face and his heart sank. He bolted for the interior door leading to the butler’s pantry, but halfway there, he heard a third pop. He put his hand on the door, turned the knob, and franticly pushed the door open. He half expected to see Darren and his parents yell “surprise” with champagne bottles or fireworks or something, but he knew in his heart what he’d just heard.
Gunshots, oh my God, please don’t let this be happening. He saw no one as he slowly walked through the butler’s pantry and down the hall to the kitchen. He rounded the corner and heard one last pop, much louder this time. His feet suddenly wouldn’t move. He felt a red-hot searing sensation in his head, and everything went black as he felt himself falling to the floor.