Beastly Businessmen and Guitar Gods

Beastly Businessmen and Guitar Gods

by Asta Idonea

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781949340273
Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC
Publication date: 07/23/2018
Pages: 218
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

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CHAPTER 1

Dragged Into Love

"LUKE, HAVE YOU seen my guitar? Fuck!"

Theo yanked open the wardrobe door for the third time, nearly pulling the freestanding unit down on him. As with the previous two attempts, the action revealed no guitar, only an assortment of wrinkled casual clothing, a selection of heavily abused and slightly smelly trainers, and one scrunched-up duffel bag, its sports logo beginning to peel.

A burst of inspiration saw Theo drop to the floor. Lying on his stomach, he peered under the bed and lifted the lopsided, overhanging duvet out of the way. But his spark of hope soon faded when all he found in that dark forgotten place was an old piece of gum that no amount of wishful thinking was going to separate from the carpet, a used tissue that had gathered its own court of attendant dust bunnies, and a stash of creased and ratty gay porn magazines that he didn't think he'd looked at in two years or more.

He used the bed to haul himself upright and staggered back to his feet, casting a final glance at the guitar stand, which remained determinedly devoid of its raison d'être. Then Theo shoved his hands deep into the pockets of his torn jeans and stormed out of the bedroom into the flat's open-plan lounge and dining area.

"Luke, man, do you know where my guitar is? I've got a gig this weekend, and I need to practise, like, now."

Theo's flatmate looked up from his magazine, frowned, and offered a pout worthy of the most outrageous of raging queens. It was misleading though. Luke was as straight as they came, in terms of both his sexual orientation and his general attitude. The guy worked nine-to-five in a financial company, for Chrissake. To Luke, a beer on a weeknight was living life on the edge these days. He'd been Theo's best friend since high school. Back then, Luke had been prone to the occasional bout of practical joking and mischief-making, but even that had gone by the wayside over the past few years. Luke had accepted adulthood with stoicism and grim determination, whereas Theo continued to fight against it, kicking and screaming for all he was worth. Nonetheless, they continued to get on well despite their ever-growing and blatant differences ... or maybe because of them.

"I've not touched it. Isn't it in your room?"

"Christ, if it was in my room, d'ya think I'd be out here asking you?" Theo sighed and shook his head. "Sorry, Luke, I didn't mean to snap."

Luke waved away the apology. "Let's look at this calmly and logically. When did you last have it?"

Theo considered for a moment. "It was there last night. No, this morning. I remember looking at it when I got dressed for work, thinking I'd change the strings before the gig."

"Okay, so we know it went missing at some point during the day while we were both at work ... Oh hell!" Luke tossed his magazine onto the coffee table, sank back into the sofa, and rubbed his temples. "It was inspection day today, Theo, and we still owe Graham your half of last fortnight's rent."

"He wouldn't!"

Luke raised an eyebrow.

Theo swore under his breath. "You're right, he would. Bastard! That fucking bastard!"

He stormed back into his room and retrieved his mobile, already dialling the number as he returned to the lounge. He dropped onto the sofa next to Luke and waited. After a few rings, Graham picked up.

"Theo! I figured I'd hear from you this evening."

"What the fuck, Graham? Do you have my guitar? You have no right, man!"

"Think of it as collateral. You pay me the rent you owe and I hand back the guitar. No harm, no foul."

"I told you the other day, I just got caught a bit short this week. I can pay you my share at the end of the weekend, after my gig, but I need that guitar to get the money."

"Hmm. Sounds like a dilemma." There was a pause, and Theo hoped it meant that Graham was finally seeing sense. "I have an alternative." Then again, maybe not. "I'll give back the guitar and let the missing rent slide if you ..."

"If I what?"

"I want a date with that sexy-hot sister of yours. Tomorrow night. At my place."

Theo knew he should say no. Fran would never go for it. Hell, she'd be livid if she knew the idea had even been bandied around. He had to refuse the offer; there was nothing else for it, and yet, when he opened his mouth, the words that came out were "Sure thing, Graham. Consider it done."

"Excellent. I'm glad we could reach an agreement. Don't screw with me, though, Theo. If she doesn't show up, the guitar is firewood and I'll be filing an eviction notice."

"She'll be there. Don't worry."

"Good. Catch you later then."

Graham ended the call, and Theo lowered the phone and cradled it in his lap, gripping so tight that his knuckles began to whiten.

"Who'll be where, Theo?" When Theo didn't answer, Luke straightened and grabbed his arm. "What exactly did you just promise the guy?"

"He wants a date with Fran. Tomorrow night at his place."

"And you agreed?" Luke released Theo and stood. He walked over to the window and then spun back around, throwing his arms in the air. "God, Theo, what were you thinking? There's no way she'll ever agree."

"She might. I'll ask real nicely. I'll say 'pretty please' and everything. I'll present it as a special, one-off favour from a sister to her favourite and best-loved brother."

"You're her only brother." Luke shook his head. "And you're an officially certified delusional fool if you think you'll sweet-talk her into going. Honestly, Theo, you're out of your goddamn mind!"

It was probably true. Theo and his twin sister, Francine, might look like carbon copies of one another, but when it came to personalities, the age-old adage of "chalk and cheese" sprang to mind. Francine was everything Theo wasn't: organised, disciplined, conservative. Actually, now that he thought about it, she was pretty much a female version of Luke. Perhaps that was why they'd ended up working at the same company. She wouldn't have touched a guy like Graham with a barge pole, even when she was single, and given that she was currently playing house with that Hayden dude ... Luke was right — there was no chance in hell.

It was too late now though; he'd already made the commitment and accepted Graham's terms. In his imagination, Theo saw Graham smashing his guitar to pieces with an axe. He watched as the brightly painted wood snapped off in all directions. He heard the strings release a dying screech as they were cloven in two. He saw his future as a guitar god splinter and burn.

"I reckon I must be." Theo shrugged. "But it's done now and I gotta at least try to make it work. I'm gonna swing by her place and see what she says. You coming with?"

"Absolutely. I wouldn't miss this for the world." Luke crossed the room and offered a hand to help Theo up. "I just hope you're ready for fireworks."

"YOU TOLD HIM what?"

Fran was in what Theo always thought of as "full-Valkyrie mode". Feet hip-width apart, hands planted on said hips, and eyes blazing, she was a picture of warlike womanhood. Her expression alone was enough to make grown men quake in their steel-capped boots, but luckily Theo had a long history of exposure and had developed partial immunity — enough that he could hold his ground even though his instincts screamed for him to take flight.

"I didn't mean to, Fran. It just kinda slipped out." He walked to the fridge, purloined a can of beer, and cracked the tab. "So, seeing as the damage is already done, I figured —"

"No way, Theo. You can't go whoring me out to sleazebags just because, at twenty-seven, you're still totally incapable of managing your money like an adult and paying your rent on time."

"Whoring ... whoring is such a strong word. Not all of us can be hotshot execs with a fast-tracked career, you know. Graham has his faults, sure, but he's not all that ba —"

"And as for you!" Fran rounded on Luke, who took a noticeable step back. "I expected better from you, Luke Drefon. How could you let him do this?"

"To be fair," Luke said, raising his hands in front of him, "I didn't find out what he'd done until after the call ended. Plus, I tried to loan him the rent money last week and he refused. Said he'd sort out the cash himself."

"Traitor," Theo muttered, and Luke had the decency to look sheepish and retreat farther into the corner of the room.

When Theo turned back to his sister, Fran was glowering. "Well, I'm not going and that's that."

"Fran, please. Pretty please. He's gonna smash my guitar. The red Fender. You know how much that baby means to me. It's my lucky charm, my most prized possession. To lose it would be like losing a limb or something. I'm down to play the opening set at Asgard on Saturday night. The best club on the guitar circuit, Fran. It's taken me months to score a gig there. If I cancel they may never book me again. And how am I ever going to make ends meet like a responsible adult if I have to cancel all my performances? I don't make anywhere near enough at the café to cover my half of the rent. I need that extra cash, Fran."

"It's not my problem."

"Actually, I have a suggestion."

Theo turned to look at Hayden. Fran's boyfriend, partner, or whatever the hell he was, had kept shtum throughout the conversation, hovering over near the kitchen counter, and Theo had all but forgotten that he was present.

Hayden was one of those people it was easy to forget. More silent watcher than active participant, he rather blended in with the furniture after a while. That was probably why Fran liked him — he would kowtow to her wishes without a fight. Theo had nothing against him. Hayden was simply so nondescript that Theo hadn't bothered to form much of an opinion about him one way or the other.

"Oh yeah?" Theo asked, cocking his head. "What's your solution then, oh wise one?"

"Well, I ... That is to say ... I merely thought that ..."

"Just spit it out, Hayden." Theo raised the can of beer to his lips and took a sip. Whatever the plan was, Hayden seemed to be damned uneasy about divulging it, though Theo could hardly see why. It wasn't as if someone as straight-laced as Hayden was going to suggest anything dubious or illegal. The guy would shudder at the mere mention of lawbreaking.

"You could go instead."

Theo nearly spat his mouthful of drink across the room. In the end, he gulped it down so fast his throat hurt. "What?"

"Oh my God! Yes, it's perfect." Fran was grinning from ear to ear. "You are so clever, darling."

"Um?" Luke stepped forward and gingerly raised his hand. "Am I the only one confused here?"

"It's simple," Fran said, her smile a tad too gleeful for Theo's liking. "Theo and I are identical. All we need to do is dress him up and he can go in my place."

"Now, hang on a minute," Theo said, turning his back on Luke's smirk. "We may have similar faces, but that's where it ends. I mean, I lack certain key ... parts, and there are others I do have that are going to be a dead giveaway. Christ, I can't believe I'm even dignifying this absurd suggestion with a conversation. No way. There's no fucking way!"

"It could work, Theo," Luke said, stepping into Theo's field of vision.

"Hey, whose side are you on, backstabber?"

"Yours, I promise. I'm just saying, let's not dismiss it out of hand."

Theo pitched his beer can across the room and into the sink with such force that it bounced right out again, casting the foamy dregs over the tiled floor and white cupboard doors. Fran tutted, but Theo ignored her and curled his hands into fists, taking a step toward Luke. "Now, listen here —"

"No, you listen here, Theodore Francis Williams." Fran appeared in front of him, herding him back. "This is your mess. No one asked you to promise the guy something you knew you couldn't deliver. If you want to save that precious guitar of yours, and maintain the tattered remains of your dignity, you're going to have to do this."

Theo collided with the kitchen counter, unable to retreat any farther. There was nowhere for him to go, no other option open to him. His back was both literally and metaphorically against the wall.

"What if he realises the truth while I'm there and goes batshit crazy? He could kill me!"

Fran tilted her head to the side, her expression thoughtful, and for a brief moment Theo hoped his luck might be changing. Sadly not. His sister turned her gaze to Luke, and that evil smile of earlier returned with a vengeance. "So, you don't go alone. If Graham didn't specify I had to go unaccompanied, there's no reason I can't have a girlfriend with me."

Luke looked every bit the deer caught in the headlights. "M-me? You want me to go with him? In ... in drag?"

"Why not?" Fran said, shrugging. "I think you'll make a rather pretty girl. Besides, if things do turn sour, at least you'll have each other."

"I can't see Mr Griffin approving of one of his employees starting a drag act. Much as I'd like to help, Fran, I need to consider my job. My position in the company is such that —"

"Dunstan will never know. No one at DunGriffinCorp will ever be any the wiser, Luke. Neither you nor I will speak a word of it, so how would anyone find out?" She sighed. "It's only a simple date, guys. A couple of hours small talk, a little light flirtation if need be, and then you can get out of there with Theo's guitar. It's not as if either of you has to sleep with the man, or tell anyone else what you're up to."

"This is never going to work, Fran," Theo whined, looking down at his mismatched shoes and wringing the hem of his T-shirt. Polite requests had been refused. Pleading had failed, as had indignation. Perhaps a pitiful display of misery would make his heartless sister reconsider. Realising her cruelty, and the terrible position he was in, she might relent and agree to go herself.

"Of course it will," Fran snapped.

Or not.

"That doesn't mean we don't have our work cut out for us though." She pursed her lips and cast an assessing gaze over Theo, making him feel like a prize pooch at Crufts. "It's less than twenty-four hours until date night, and we have a lot to do." She looked between the three men. "Be prepared to call in sick at work tomorrow, gentlemen. We are going to have a very hectic schedule."

THEO LET OUT a piercing screech. How many was that now? He'd lost count. Surely she had to be about done. He glanced down the length of his body only to see the beautician preparing to rip off another of those cursed strips of whatever the stuff was that she'd stuck all over his leg. Christ!

His next scream was more of a whimper, and Theo caught the beautician's eye when she glanced up at him. To her credit, she had maintained a neutral expression throughout, neither showing annoyance at his less-than-macho display nor betraying any hint of amusement. Nope, this woman was professional to the core, and he was damned thankful for that. The whole situation was bad enough as it was without him having to feel humiliated in his sister's favourite beauty parlour.

He wondered how Luke was faring next door. Theo hadn't heard any screams from him, which was rather embarrassing now that he thought about it, seeing as how he'd been crying like a baby for the last half hour. Then again, maybe the walls were soundproof. Yes, that had to be it. No way could anyone go through that without screaming the house down. Soundproofing was likely a health and safety requirement for all salons offering this ... treatment, for the aural protection of other customers if nothing else.

"Last one!" the beautician said, a smile in her voice, and Theo squawked as she ripped away the final strip, ridding him of his last vestige of manly body hair. Not that he'd had much to begin with. That fact had always irked him in the past, but for the first time in his life, he was grateful for his relatively smooth skin. Even smoother now. Thanks to Carly's ministrations, he had the arms, legs, chest, and back of a newborn babe.

"How's it going in there?" Fran didn't wait for a reply before swinging open the door and barging in.

Theo scrambled upright and dragged one of the towels off the nearby bench, draping it over his lap. "God, Fran, a little privacy?"

"Oh, you've got nothing I haven't seen before. Anyway, I thought I'd better come in and check you were still alive. The noise you were making, anyone would think you were undergoing an amputation, not a little bitty leg wax."

Theo glowered but didn't bother to argue the point. "What about Luke? Haven't they started on him yet?"

"Luke was finished ten minutes ago. The guy took it like a champ. Nary a whimper from him. Well, come on, what are you waiting for? We've still got a lot to get through."

"There's more?"

"Don't fret. The next bit is much more relaxing. You even get to keep your clothes on this time."

THEO HAD NEVER had a mani-pedi before. He might be gay, but he wasn't that gay. That said, it wasn't unpleasant to sit there with his hands and feet soaking. It certainly beat the torture of earlier in the day.

Fran had introduced the manicurist and seen them settled into their seats before dragging Hayden out the door, muttering something about shopping for supplies and returning shortly. So now Theo and Luke were blissfully alone, save for Thuy, who either didn't feel confident speaking to them more than was necessary or else was highly intuitive and realised that neither man wanted to make small talk.

"Say, Theo? Can I ask you something?"

"Sure." Theo looked over at Luke, who was doing one of his pensive at-the-wall stares.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Beastly Businessmen and Guitar Gods"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Asta Idonea.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword,
DunGriffinCorp Employees,
Prologue,
Dragged Into Love,
Love's Code,
Guessing Games,
Assignations and Ultimatums,
Lost and Found,
A Debt is a Debt,
About the Author,

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