An unedited excerpt from Frankie & Al, due out March/Apr next year, published by Dreamspinner. Paul Richmond sent me the cover art yesterday.
Frankie Mason got dumped two days into a holiday with his friends. He stared at the text his boyfriend had sent him, trying to make sense of the words.
We’re over. Don’t come back. Your gear was at your mums.
Jonno flopped down beside him on the sunbed and stretched out luxuriously. “Hey, party pooper, why aren’t you dancing?”
Frankie stared at the guys dancing on the makeshift dance floor on the beach and then back at the phone. The words hadn’t changed. “Chaz dumped me.”
“What the fuck?” Jonno frowned and snatched the phone out of Frankie’s hand. He squinted at the screen. “Bitch! What are you going to do?”
“What can I do?” Frankie swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat. “It’s his house. I was just his boyfriend. I didn’t even pay rent.”
“Key his car,” Jonno said promptly. “You always said he loved that more than you. Or cut up his clothes. Or post pictures of his wiener on Tumblr.”
“I’m going to regret ever showing you those photos.”
“The bloke’s built like a chipolata. How could you not show the world?” Jonno rubbed Frankie’s back soothingly. “Fuck, babe, where’re you gonna stay?”
“Not with my mum, that’s for sure. We’d kill each other within a day.” Frankie laid his head on Jonno’s shoulder. “Can I stay with you?”
Jonno hesitated. “You know I’d have you like a shot, but Will….”
“Doesn’t like me.”
“It’s not that he doesn’t like you.” Jonno was crap at lying. “He was just….”
“Forget it. I’ll stay at a hotel.” Frankie sat up, scrubbing at his eyes. What he wanted to do, what he was going to do in the next ten minutes was step into a shower and ball his eyes out. He’d not seen this coming. He loved Chaz and he thought Chaz loved him. Why the fuck had his boyfriend dumped him? The bastard owed him an explanation.
He texted Chaz and then wished he hadn’t when the answer flashed up ten seconds later.
Found a younger model.
“Fuck it. I may be nearly thirty but I’m not too old to have some fun.” Frankie got to his feet and pulled Jonno up with him. “Come dance with me.”
Jonno kissed him on the mouth, smearing cherry lipgloss across Frankie’s lips. “That’s more like it.” He slapped Frankie on the arse and ran onto the dance floor, dragging his friend behind him.
Frankie plastered a fake smile on his face and ripped off his T-shirt. He had a body worth showing off and now he was young, free and single. Well, one of those three. He wasn’t free to anyone.
He danced until his feet hurt more than his heart, grinding against Jonno, dancing with anyone that approached, but he ignored all the offers and the cards stuffed into his pockets. Tomorrow maybe he’d look at the meat but today the twink that was too old closed his eyes and let the music take him.
After Jonno dragged him to the bar and made him down shot after shot, Frankie’s pain dulled and his world was woozy. He stumbled along the corridor of the hotel, squinting as he tried to focus on the room numbers. He wasn’t even convinced he was on the right floor. Jonno, the bitch, had deserted him to go to another club. He’d tried to persuade Frankie to go but Frankie knew his limits.
“Room 245, room 254,” Frankie muttered.
“Which one was it?”
Frankie tried to focus on the man standing next to him. It wasn’t easy. The man kept swaying. “Stand still,” he ordered.
“Christ, you really are drunk, aren’t you? I’m standing still. You’re the one doing the swaying.”
Frankie shook his head and then wished he hadn’t. “Gonna hurl.” He heard the man groan.
“Why was it always me? Hold on for two minutes. Give me your keycard.”
After that, Frankie’s whole focus was not humiliating himself in front of a complete stranger. By some miracle, the first door the stranger tried was the right door. Frankie still wasn’t sure of the number. He was pushed into the bathroom and what followed was the worst fifteen minutes of his life—since the last time.
To his surprise, once he’d got his stomach under control, he realised that the man hadn’t left. He sat on the floor next to Frankie, his hand on Frankie’s back.
When the retching ceased enough for him sit back, the man offered Frankie a drink of water. “Sip it slowly,” he warned.
Frankie used it to clear his mouth and then sipped it, feeling his stomach rebel at even the small amount of liquid.
“Feeling better?” the man asked.
“Much.” Frankie wiped his mouth. He looked at his saviour. “Thanks.”
“I suppose there’s no point me saying you shouldn’t binge-drink.”
Frankie groaned. “You’re not a teetotaller, are you?”
“Would it be an issue if I was?”
“It was if you’re going to give me a lecture.” Frankie was so not in a mood for a fucking lecture.
“Bad day?” The man sounded more sympathetic at least.
“Yeah.” The worst fucking kind of day.
“Have you finished puking?”
“I think so.” Frankie would reserve judgement until he stood up.
“Come on. You don’t want to spend the night here.” The man helped Frankie to his feet and led him into the bedroom. “Lie down on the bed.” He pushed Frankie onto the bed and removed his shoes. “Here, I’ll leave the bin next to you in case you feel sick again. And more water.”
Frankie curled into a ball and wished he could die. “Thank you,” he whispered.
“You’re welcome.” Frankie felt a ghost of a caress over his hair. “Go to sleep.”
Obediently Frankie closed his eyes, wishing he could ask the stranger to stay and hold his hand.
But you don’t ask strangers to hold your hand whilst you fall asleep and as he heard the door close behind his Good Samaritan, Frankie let the tears fall.