QSFer Lina Langley has a new gay sci fi book out:
At first, Damien feels lucky to land a job at an influential art studio, but it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. His gorgeous boss, John, is interested, and he’d be the perfect man for Damien—if Damien wasn’t already in a relationship. It isn’t long before Damien is at the center of a love triangle, forced to choose between hot, punk John and his secret affair with his professor, Levi. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because something impossible is happening to Damien—and it’s having a drastic effect on his health as well as his perception of reality.
Each time Damien goes to work, things grow more bizarre, starting with Sam—an artist who has been dead for years and now somehow… isn’t. Damien’s unusual circumstances also free him from the restrictions of monogamy—or so he thinks. Levi, who cannot believe Damien’s claims, fears for his sanity. John also has strong doubts when Damien reveals knowledge of a catastrophic event looming in John’s future. Whether the men he loves believe his wild claims or not, neither can deny Damien is languishing, and if they cannot save him, he’ll be lost. More importantly, they must convince Damien to save himself.
I don’t know why I thought speaking would be a good idea. I’m covered in sweat even though it’s only five to nine and the day hasn’t even started. I’m not late, but I’m cutting it close for a first day. The office—the studio, it’s hardly an office—seems empty. I’m pleasantly surprised. I should be able to go to the bathroom and wash my face, maybe straighten up my hair. I just wish I had product on me.
I turn around to see where the baritone voice is coming from. A man stands in front of me in the hallway. I can’t seem to stop staring at him. I don’t know why—he’s not even my type. He’s thin and tall, with sculptured cheekbones and pointy ears. His eyes are green and steely, incredibly intense. His arms are crossed over his chest. He’s wearing a denim vest and jeans, but he somehow manages to pull it off. I look up at his face again and this time notice his mohawk. It’s understated, for a mohawk, so that’s not saying much.
I guess it makes sense he’s not dressed up. This is an art studio, not an office.
He lets me finish staring at him before he smirks. Then he looks down and takes a cigarette out of his jacket pocket.
No way, I tell myself. Your luck is never this good.
I need to say something. The silence is stretching out and he seems to be enjoying it. I’m not enjoying it at all. I can feel my cheeks starting to redden as I stand in front of him.
“I’m Damien,” I say.
“Nice name,” he replies. He’s holding the unlit cigarette between his fingers. He fumbles for his lighter and takes a long drag as he lights up.
I look around, wondering who he is. Is this a test? Am I supposed to be telling him he can’t smoke inside?
He turns his face so he blows the smoke away from mine. “I’m sorry,” he says, his smile widening. “It’s my last one.”
It’s probably impolite to tell him I didn’t want a cigarette in the first place. “That’s okay.”
He narrows his eyes. “You’re new here, right?”
“Yes,” I reply. “Today is my first day.”
“I’m meant to show you around,” he says. “I’m John.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Alright.” He finishes his cigarette, stubs it out with his fingers, and throws it in the bin in the hallway. “This is the hallway. That’s the main room, you’re not really allowed in there, and the bathroom is on the other end of the building.”
That was a terrible tour. And I want to ask where everyone is, but I’m not going to. John may be my boss, for all I know, and I don’t want him to think I’m incompetent. “Thanks.”
“Yeah,” he says. He hasn’t stopped looking at me, right at my face, at all, ever since he started to speak, and I feel a little uncomfortable. “People come in and out of here all the time. Get used to that.”
“Okay.” I don’t know what else I’m supposed to say.
He looks me up and down for the first time. I feel a little breathless when his gaze falls from my face, like I’ve just been released from something. “What are you wearing?”
“Um,” I say and look down at my outfit. I’m sure it’s office appropriate, but he’s making me doubt myself. I can’t place his tone either. It’s half-amused, half-baffled, all snide. “Business casual?”
“You look like an Italian prostitute,” he says.
“You look like an Italian prostitute,” he repeats. He knows I’ve heard him, and he’s smirking now, though his tone has changed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it softened, but it’s less jagged. More like the kind of ribbing I’d expect from a friend, instead of an insult from the person who could be my boss.
I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’m wearing a blue button-up shirt, dark trousers, a brown belt, and boots to match. I know this outfit looks good. Well, I knew the outfit looked good until about a second ago.
I’m offended. I know that he’s enjoying that I am, so I can’t let him see it. “Like a very expensive Italian prostitute,” I correct him.
I’m trying to make sure my voice doesn’t waver, but I still sound younger than I intend. I feel very small compared to this person, even though he’s seems to be only a few years older than me.
Five, at a push.
He’s got nothing on Levi.
His smile widens. His teeth are thin and long, and his canines especially are mismatched with the rest of his mouth. They make him look feral. So fucking sexy.
I tell myself to stop being ridiculous.
He crosses his arms and leans back on the wall. I didn’t even realize that there was a wall next to him. It seems to have appeared specifically for the purpose of having him lean on it, looking all James Dean and punk, and making me feel like an idiot. “Did your girlfriend buy those clothes for you?”
“No.” I swallow. I need to get a grip on myself. This isn’t going anywhere. If it’s his idea of flirting, it’s pretty bad, and I don’t understand how or why it seems to be working on me. I’m blushing and I hate myself for it. I need to get a grip, reel the situation in. “My boyfriend helped, though.”
He knits his eyebrows, looking slightly taken aback by that. Maybe he is interested, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how good he looks, he’s too much of a dick for me to want anything to do with him. Totally. Yes, that’s it. He’s too much of a dick and I can do so much better than him. He looks so much like a character from a John Hughes production, all mismatched and hot in a weird, uncomfortable way. And of course there’s Levi.
Of course there’s Levi. Whom I seem to have forgotten about until now.
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Yes. Well, kind of. It’s complicated,” I say. I think I see a twinge of jealousy in his expression, but I can’t be sure. Mostly he just seems surprised, his mouth still half-open, his eyes shining. There’s something else there, but I can’t place it. Whatever it is, it’s making me blush. A lot. I can feel how hot my cheeks are, again, even redder that they were before.
“What about you? Anyone special in your life?”
He laughs at that. His laughter isn’t what I was expecting at all—it’s lilted and it sounds sincere. His eyes close. He throws his head back and his mohawk, his ridiculous understated mohawk, moves just a little bit. I wonder how he gets it to stay like that. I want to ask him if I can touch it. If I can touch him.
“No,” he replies, and for a second I think he can read my mind. He stops laughing then and sets his gaze on me again, on my face. “I’m not cut out for relationships.”
I can see that, I think. I almost say it, but I don’t. Instead I watch him until he speaks. “Right. Better get back to work.”
Lina Langley is a first-generation immigrant. She currently lives in sunny Florida and spends her time slashing hot strangers while getting coffee.
Her past is haunted by spies, thieves, tyrants, and murderers. A resident of the world, she’s lived on three different continents. She first saw a radiator when she was twenty-two years old, and one time she followed a cat instead of going to a house party.
She likes to read, watch TV, and play video games when she’s not developing them. The rest of her free time is spent recreating her own characters in The Sims and hoping that people don’t look at the back end of her games.