In the follow-up to the gay romance bestseller The Lord Won't Mind, Peter and Charlie's marriage is put to the test when a young Frenchman enters their lives
After a decade together in a steady, happy relationship, a trip to the sun-baked Mediterranean is exactly what Peter and Charlie need. Peter, now an art dealer, and Charlie, an artist, travel to the Riviera to attend to some business. However, once there, they meet a man who pushes their fidelity to the breaking point—and past it.
In this, the second novel of the bestselling Peter & Charlie Trilogy, Gordon Merrick picks up with the couple's lives a few years after The Lord Won't Mind and in smart and scintillating fashion explores the ways the years can twist and warp a relationship. When their trip continues on a yacht through the Greek islands, Peter creates what he hopes is a good plan to mend their cracked bond, but instead may have created something that will rip them apart forever.
About the Author
Gordon Merrick (1916–1988) was an actor, television writer, and journalist. Merrick was one of the first authors to write about gay themes for a mass audience. He wrote fourteen books, including the beloved Peter & Charlie Trilogy. The Lord Won't Mind spent four months on the New York Times bestseller list in 1970. Merrick's posthumously published novel The Good Life, coauthored with his partner, Charles G. Hulse, was a bestseller as well. Merrick died in Sri Lanka.
Read an Excerpt
One for the Gods
The Peter & Charlie Trilogy
By Gordon Merrick
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1971 Charles G. Hulse, Estate of Gordon Merrick
All rights reserved.
A ship's whistle hooted in the night. The blond American closed his book and sat in the soft light of a kerosene lamp and tried not to hope.
After a moment of total immobility, he sprang up and crossed the bare whitewashed room and went out onto the terrace that hung over the port. Lights bobbed on the water below. Launches were running between the quai and a steamship lying at the entrance to the harbor. People bustling about their little business. Coming from Athens? Going to Athens? As if it made any difference.
The terrace was too high for the American to distinguish individuals as they clambered ashore in the dark so he made no effort to concentrate on the arrivals, although there was one head he felt sure he would recognize even at this distance if it should appear. He stood with godlike detachment, watching the human ants scurrying about beneath him. The sound of excited voices drifted up to him.
Was the beloved voice among them? Even at this distance, he felt sure that his ear would catch its unique note. It was an absurdity to hope to hear it, since not a soul in the world knew that he was here on this small Greek island. He had only himself to blame if nobody attempted to rescue him from the shipwreck of his life. An apt metaphor, very nearly the formulation of fact.
He turned his back on the picturesque scene below and retraced his steps, skirting the area of the terrace that looked as if it were about to cave in. He seated himself once more in the rickety straight-backed chair at the unpainted wooden table and pulled the kerosene lamp toward him. He looked at his book but didn't reopen it. He wondered how long it would be before the unreasonable hope died. And was it really hope? He would never know unless it were fulfilled. Otherwise, what? Would he stay on in this crumbling ruin of a house, slowly dying with it into time? Why not? He had made the acquaintance of death—whether voluntary or involuntary didn't seem important—a new acquaintance but not an unwelcome one. There was much to be said for being dead. The hazards of rescue were perhaps more to be feared than the oblivion he had found here.
He thought of the day of the trip from St. Tropez to Porquerolles, the day he had first known, no matter how much he had tried to close his mind to it, that the years of unbroken tranquility were ending. He felt as if an eternity of torment separated him from that day, but it had been only the time it took to sail from France to Greece, the time it took to test and reshape everything he had thought himself to be.
He felt already, after barely a week here, that he was taking on a new, dim identity. Kyrios Carlos, as some of the shopkeepers had begun to call him, since apparently "Charles" was a sound the Greeks couldn't pronounce, and "Mills" became something he might eat three times a day. Kyrios Carlos, the silent foreigner who had unprecedentedly bought a house. Give him twenty years or so and he could turn into the island's colorful old eccentric. By then, his unborn child would be fully grown and a total stranger to him. His child? Of course. There was little room for doubt, no justification for the disclaimer of a question mark.
He wished he could decide whom he was punishing. Himself? The others? If he could find the answer to that question, he would be able to glimpse the shape of the future. He knew that he deserved punishment, but he was far from sure that he was qualified to administer it. Was his being here an evasion of it or a submission to it? As he was discovering about most questions in life, there was no clear-cut answer. Therein lay hope's resilience.
His mind was timing imaginary movements on the port. So many minutes to collect oneself at the point of debarkation and get into the center of the built-up area of the port where there were lighted shops and cafés. So many minutes being passed from hand to hand until the old man who spoke English was found. So many more minutes for the ritual interrogation, with perhaps some ouzo or retsina thrown in. A little more time for a guide to be produced, and the final eight minutes or so to get up to the house. It could happen. If anybody really wanted to find him, it would be possible. Nobody could just disappear off the face of the earth.
He opened his book. As he did so, his straining ears picked up a sound. He sat without moving as the sound grew nearer. He leaped to his feet and stood motionless, as a thrill, like light fingers running over him, crawled up the skin of his back. The unmistakable footsteps were mounting the last rise to the house. For an instant, his ears lost the sound, or perhaps his mind distrusted the boon of what he so longed to hear. He caught another sound. Voices? His mind clouded in protest: he couldn't face both of them. The sound of hurrying feet again, just outside now. His heart stopped at the knock on the door.
We must take a step back in time and break in on a private conversation.
"Is it true you two go in for fidelity and all that?"
"I don't know about 'all that' but fidelity, yes. Does that sound terribly quaint?"
The two young men were strolling past the bare central square of Porquerolles, elegant in the French way without containing any single elegant element, in the wake and out of earshot of a small band of holiday friends. Ahead of them was a stand of wind-twisted pines beyond which could be glimpsed a curve of white sand and the intense blue of the Mediterranean. The sun was hot and harsh, soaking up color, so that the gaily dressed party looked somehow ghostly against the black pines. Only the blue of the sea survived.
"I find it not only unlikely but damned inconvenient for me," the dark young Frenchman persisted. His name was Guy de Sainval and he was very rich. "I think you and I could have something very exciting together."
"The thought has crossed my mind," Charlie Mills, the blond American, lied. He lied not because Guy was rich and, having bought two of his paintings, was something of a patron, but because he had had this conversation with so many others that he had developed a set of stock replies in order to get it over with as quickly as possible. Life with Peter had made him resent people making passes at him, especially men; the implied assumption that he could be had was an affront.
"You see?" Guy flashed him a suggestive smile. He had a face that interested without attracting Charlie, a witty, intelligent face, fine-boned, like an aristocratic bird. "Fidelity is altogether too limiting. Especially for an artist. Even normally married couples don't attempt it."
"But that's just it. We're not a normally married couple so we've made up our own rules. It's really no great hardship. We like it that way. What about you and Harry?"
"That gangster? If you'll forgive my speaking so of a compatriot of yours. All my friends warned me against him. They were right. I'd get rid of him in an instant for someone like you."
"Just so that we could be unfaithful to each other?"
"Yes. Absurd, isn't it? But one must have someone to be unfaithful to." They both laughed, although Charlie's laughter was not wholly spontaneous. Something was wrong. He didn't like to joke about something so deeply ingrained in his life and precious to him, but it wasn't that. Was it too soon to be in Europe for pleasure? The war had been over for five years but evidence of its agony was still vivid and pervasive. Was that why he had felt a shadow over the day, the drive from St. Tropez in expensive cars, the voyage out to the island on the regular tourist boat, which, for this run—though some magic of Guy's—had been entirely reserved for them, all in order to taste what Guy described as the only perfect bouillabaisse in the world? Frivolity in a vacuum? Graveyard gaiety?
Recently, in the brief panic stirred up by the outbreak of war in Korea, they had almost abandoned their holiday. Charlie was beginning to wish they had. He hadn't wanted to come on this excursion; it was going to use up a whole working day. He had allotted a daily hour-and-a-half for the beach but at whatever time was convenient to him, and alone with Peter, so his concentration wasn't broken. This was an exception, a triumph of Guy's insistence over Charlie's will.
He was finding it difficult to adjust to this unfamiliar life of social promiscuity and luxurious idleness. He and Peter had chosen a life that seemed, by contrast, austere.
Their converted farmhouse in Connecticut was comfortable but small. Their cars were serviceable. Charlie was deeply absorbed in his painting and spent his days at it. Peter was fascinated by the hobby that had become his career, dealing in art, but found time to cook for them and run the house.
Together, they had never frequented a homosexual world. They had found their friends among their neighbors, professional people, married couples with children, and among the rich, whom Peter cultivated as clients. Charlie's earnings were irregular and often meager but there had never been any question between them of keeping separate financial accounts. Peter paid, and was quite able to, but he had to keep considerable sums of cash available for his business affairs, and they had never been given to extravagance.
This lavish, lax, azure coast was basically alien to them, but there was more to it than that. Something was wrong; Charlie knew what it was, but he wasn't yet ready to put a name to it.
"This is a beautiful place," he said, as the immaculate curve of beach, the clean blue depths of the sea became more clearly visible through the trees.
"Ah, but wait till you taste the bouillabaisse. It's rare that one can introduce somebody to perfection. If I can't seduce you, perhaps the bouillabaisse will."
"It sounds messy." Charlie laughed his enforced holiday laughter.
"Of course, you two are the sensations of the season. You're both so wildly attractive and so alike in many ways. Nobody believes for an instant in this fidelity. Everybody's trying to decide which of you they'd prefer to have. For me, there's no question. Peter is utterly charming but it's all open and obvious. You have a mystery. It's very intriguing."
"That's me, all right. 'The Mystery Man'." Charlie's eyes traveled over the small group ahead of them, squinting against the sun. It had further subdivided itself. The Courtin girl was flanked by Peter and her brother Jean-Claude. It figured. The two other women walked hand in hand. Harry skulked around the edges, kicking up dust with heavy feet. To Charlie, the center of any group was always Peter, and he was definitely so now. His golden head was almost white under the sun. He somehow moved with quick jaunty grace even though he was walking slowly. He was gesturing with his hands, obviously casting his spell over his companions. Of them all, he was the one who seemed wholly alive, lifting them all on the surge of his light-hearted vitality. Charlie's eyes lingered briefly, irresistibly, on his bottom.
"You've been together—how long did somebody tell me?—ten years?" Guy was continuing. "You must have been infants. Do you really expect me to believe that neither of you has strayed in all that time?"
"That's about the way it's been," Charlie said, achieving an approximation of the truth. The year they had been separated by the war didn't count. He knew as surely as anything could be known that Peter had never been unfaithful to him.
"Your past must be absolutely strewn with broken hearts. Look at the Courtins. Both Anne and Jean-Claude are madly in love with your friend. And here am I, glued to your side, eager to fill any idle hour."
"It's a great comfort, I assure you," Charlie said with a laugh, lightly touching the other's shoulder.
"Peter went to Paris last week, didn't he?" Guy asked, abruptly dropping his bantering tone.
"Yes. He's working on a deal."
"I know about it. He's trying to get some things from the de Belleville collection. It will be a triumph if he succeeds. They've never parted with so much as a spoon, though God knows they need the money."
"I hope he manages it. It's for a very important client."
"Oh, he'll doubtless charm them out of everything they possess. He came back Thursday, didn't he?"
"Did he? Yes, of course. He took the Wednesday night train back."
"Do you think it at all curious that Jean-Claude was away on Wednesday night? He and Anne were to have dinner with us, but he dropped out at the last minute. He said he had to see some friends in Cannes."
Charlie's heart felt suddenly strained and heavy. The muscles of his face were stiff, but he managed a smile. "You are a troublemaker, aren't you? I really don't see how Peter on a train has any connection with Jean-Claude in Cannes."
"You're sure he was on the train?"
"Of course. He called me from Paris on Wednesday and was back Thursday morning." He was getting angry now, angry with Guy for such outright bitchery, for forcing into the open the agonizing thoughts he had been trying to suppress, angry with himself for permitting suspicions that left all his nerves feeling raw and exposed.
"I'm no doubt imagining things," Guy said. "I shouldn't have said anything but all is permitted in love and war, n'est-ce pas?"
"Of course," Charlie said cuttingly. "It's a familiar story. Some people can't stand seeing two people living happily together. This whole conversation bores me."
They were saved further acrimony by a pause ahead; the others had reached the shade of the trees and stood waiting to regroup.
"We remind me of some idyllic Renoir," Madeleine de Montrécy exclaimed in her chuckling fruity voice as Charlie and Guy approached. "Look at us. I think we're too lovely for words."
"None of us is nearly round enough," Peter objected. They all laughed as they set off once more on a path through the scattered trees. Peter detached himself from the Courtins and fell into step beside Charlie. As he did so, they looked deep into each other's eyes and told each other, invisibly to anybody else, how pleased they were to be together. Charlie put his hand on Peter's neck and gave it a squeeze. As he dropped his hand, he allowed it to brush against Peter's bottom in a discreet caress, reaffirming his possession of his body. The look and the physical contact assured him that his suspicions were absurd. He and Peter existed only for each other.
After a few moments they emerged from the woods onto the broad curve of sand. They straggled across it, blinded, to the water's edge. The sea was held by two rocky promontories in a still, blue cove, hissing faintly as it rippled up over the gently shelving shore. There was nobody else in sight. In a moment, they had taken possession of their chosen area. Towels were flung out, shirts and shorts were dropped, they all milled about together, nearly naked, copper-brown from the sun, exchanging and applying lotions and oils, settling themselves in. Madeleine had been right; they made a lovely ensemble, with the exception of Harry, who was hairily bullish with a sullen, sensual face, and Madeleine herself, who, being fortyish, required courage to display herself with the others but carried it off with an air. She was the only one who had passed beyond that magical time between the early twenties and the early thirties when age can mercifully be forgotten. Anne Courtin had a sweet, immobile child's face with staring devouring eyes and a grown child's body with adorable breasts softly nestling within the meager confines of her bikini top. Jean-Claude Courtin offered a startling contrast to his sister. The tallest of the group, his dark brows swooped dramatically, his eyes were soft and liquid, his mouth ripe. His long-limbed body was sleek and smoothly fleshed with little muscular definition, rich and voluptuous. Genevieve, Madeleine's friend, had a trim, elegant boy's body, as did Guy. Charlie and Peter, the two "blond gods" as they had sometimes, embarrassingly, been called, were physically very nearly twins, yet Charlie gave an impression of athletic masculinity that in Peter was somehow converted into delicacy and gentle harmony.
Excerpted from One for the Gods by Gordon Merrick. Copyright © 1971 Charles G. Hulse, Estate of Gordon Merrick. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
Outrageous, addictive, perversely sexy...the closest thing gay people have to the fat, juicy romance novels that housewives have been devouring for years.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is quite possibly Merrick's greatest work. He has taken Peter and Charlie Mills-Martin to beautiful and intricate heights I never thought possible. Sail away with these soulmates again. It will be a most unforgettable journey.
This is the first book I have read by this author, but will definitely read more by him. He has a very sexy way of writing that is a real turn on. Two alpha males in love during the late 1940's and early 50's in Southern France at this point, and the many challenges to their relationship. Their for one another is really tested.....