A Vintage Affair
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by Josh Lanyon
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Mystery/Crime
Description: Message in a bottle.
Somewhere in the cobwebbed cellar of the decrepit antebellum mansion known as Ballineen are the legendary Lee bottles -- and Austin Gillespie is there to find them. The last thing on his mind is a hot and heavy romance with handsome bad boy Jeff Brady. But Jeff has other ideas and, after one intoxicating night, so does Austin.
The only problem is they have different ideas. Jeff doesn't believe in love at first sight, and even if he did, he's buried more deeply in the closet than those famous missing bottles of vintage Madeira. Popping a cork or two is one thing. Popping the question? No way. No how.
Unless Austin is ready to give up on another dream, he's going to have to figure out how to make sure the lights go on -- and stay on -- in Georgia.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Male/male sexual practices, menage (m/f/m), voyeurism.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2010
Filament eBookStore Release Date: August 2010
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [203 KB]
Reading time: 119-167 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
The Magnolia Room was probably every bit as handsome as the rest of the Stonewall Jackson Inn, but Austin had only a fleeting impression of burgundy walls, gleaming brass fixtures, and comfortable, rich, dark wood. The nicest thing in the room was Jeff, who was already sitting at the bar chatting with another patron when Austin strolled in.
He smiled and raised his glass in greeting.
"You're early," Austin said, joining him. He was early too, but after he'd changed clothes and watched a few depressing minutes of news on the flat-screen TV, he'd decided to wait downstairs.
Jeff had showered and shaved. He wore khakis and a short-sleeved shirt in the exact same shade of green as his eyes. And whatever his cologne was, it was already driving Austin wild. God, what was that? Bergamot, citrus, basil, mint...and something else. Icelandic moss?
"I finished up earlier than I expected. What'll you have to drink? Or is that a silly question?"
Austin grinned and asked the bartender what they had available from local wineries.
Jeff lifted a hand in greeting to a couple who came in. They waved back and, to Austin's relief, took a table in the corner.
The bartender brought him a glass of Habersham Scarlett, a blend of Chambourcin, cabernet sauvignon, and white wine. Austin gently swirled the wine to release the bouquet. He breathed in the voluptuous aroma of moist earth and sun-drenched berries. He tilted the glass and checked the color. The light was all wrong in the bar, of course, but it looked like a hue with some heft. He sipped. Soft and fruity. A rich, ripe blackberry-blueberry character. He nodded approval and turned back to Jeff.
Jeff was smiling at some private thought, but at Austin's inquiring look, he tipped his head at Austin's glass. "Not bad, I take it?"
"I'm pleasantly surprised."
"Your eyes light up when you're pleasantly surprised." That smooth, deliberate charm both excited Austin and made him uneasy. Jeff planned on seducing him, and Austin had no problem with that, but he couldn't help wondering if Jeff had some motive beyond the obvious. Things generally did not work like this for him. In fact, he couldn't remember a guy like Jeff ever pursuing him. Not that Austin didn't get hit on plenty, but he wasn't Jeff's normal type. He was pretty sure of that--even without taking into account that, from what he'd seen so far, Jeff's normal type was female.
"Tell the truth." Jeff sounded indulgent. "How often do you return wine?"
"Not often," Austin said seriously. "A lot of people misunderstand the purpose of testing wine. It's not to decide whether you like the wine. You're basically checking to see that it's the right wine and that it's not corked."
"Wine isn't supposed to be corked?"
"Corked as in corky. It means the wine has spoiled. The cork has been contaminated with TCA--trichloroanisole. Inevitably a certain percentage of wine is spoiled by bad corks. That's why companies are experimenting with screw caps and glass tops and plastic corks. Of course, most people can't tell if wine is corked unless it's in a high concentration."
"But you can?"
Jeff offered a lopsided smile, "At the risk of looking like a total redneck, I admit I'm not much of a wine drinker. It gives me indigestion."
Austin glanced at Jeff's glass. "Jack Daniel's?"
Sort of. But not in a bad way. Austin took another mouthful of wine, letting it roll across his taste buds, savoring it. "How were things at Ballineen when you left?" He pulled out his iPhone and texted himself a quick message with notes on the wine.
Jeff watched him, answering absently. "The sheriffs were still processing the crime scene."
"So no arrest is imminent?"
Naw. Funny how that drawl seemed to soften the negative.
Another couple entered the bar and greeted Jeff. Pleasantries were exchanged, and they moved away with surreptitious glances at Austin.
Seeing that he seemed to have lost Jeff's attention, Austin said, "I think the butler did it."
Jeff laughed. "Faulkner?"
"Why not? That's the way it works in books, isn't it? He's like a cross between Benson and Mr. E. Blackadder."
"I don't know who Mr. E. Blackadder is, but I remember Benson."
This led to a brief digression on television shows they'd watched growing up. Jeff had been a fan of JAG and MADtv. Austin confessed to What a Cartoon! Show and NewsRadio.
Austin returned to his original point. "I can't put my finger on it, but Faulkner's got this attitude. Like he's having a private laugh at them all. But yet he seems kind of fond of them too."
"Well, there you go." Jeff swallowed a mouthful of Jack Daniel's. "I don't think the sheriffs are looking at Faulkner."
"Who are they looking at?"
Jeff negligently lifted a broad shoulder. "I'm not in their confidence."
"It seemed like you were today."
Jeff's eyes were very green in the muted light. "Is that so?"
Austin nodded. His phone rang. He checked the number. Ernest. Crap.
"I've got to take this."
Jeff nodded politely.
Austin walked out to the polished hall, with its marble pillars and glass-slick wooden floors and giant urns with floral arrangements.
"I could sue Harrison and Mother for mental cruelty."
Austin closed his eyes and counted to ten. That was too long, of course, because by four Ernest was detailing the grounds for his lawsuit and citing similar cases.
"Ernie...Ernest, stop." Austin finally made himself heard. He could hear Ernest's unsteady breathing in the silence between them. "You can't sue your parents."
"Article nine of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child--"
"Snap out of it," Austin interrupted. "Have you considered how much that would hurt their feelings? Unless you're prepared to sever all ties but financial, you don't want to go in that direction."
"I'm prepared. I won't allow them to interfere with my work."
My kid brother, the mad scientist. "You're not prepared. Are you telling me you think you can sue Harrison--Dad--and then enjoy a jolly family Thanksgiving or Christmas? Are you planning to move out? What about your laboratory? What about Armstrong and Buzz?"
"I won't be able to use my laboratory while I'm at school anyway." He was doing that adenoidal breathing thing he did when he was trying not to cry. Austin's heart twisted, but sympathy was just going to encourage Ernest, and he was stubborn enough without encouragement.
"Ernie, I understand that you're upset, but if you think going to school is disruptive to your work, try suing your parents. And you'll still have to go to school of some kind."
"I could live with you."
"No, Ernesto, you can't. I'm sorry, but no. I can't take care of a child. That doesn't mean I don't love you, because I do."
"I could live with Shelia and study giraffes."
Sometimes the kid was refreshingly...kidlike.
"Then you wouldn't be working in your laboratory, would you?"
"I don't care."
"If that's the case, I think you should call Shelia right now." Good luck trying to locate Stepmother #1, currently somewhere in Kenya studying endangered giraffes. But anything that got Austin off the hook for a while was fine.
"I will." Ernest disconnected.
"Good-bye," Austin murmured to the dial tone.
He returned to the bar and said, "Sorry about that. My brother isn't happy about going to boarding school in the fall."
"I don't blame him."
"Yeah, but it's going to happen whether he likes it or not, so he needs to try to figure out how to make the best of it."
"Did you go to boarding school? Prep school?"
"Yeah, I thought so. You've got that way about you."
"What way is that?"
Jeff said immediately, "I'm not criticizing you. I like you, Austin. I just mean it's partly your way of talking--your accent--and it's partly--"
Austin grinned. "My accent?"
"You've got the look and the attitude, but inside you're different. Or you wouldn't be taking your brother's phone calls."
Austin smiled faintly. He picked up his wineglass.
"Yeah, you're not about the money or the position or the job in banking. What are you about?" Jeff seemed sincerely interested, and that openness and attention disarmed Austin. Before he knew it, he was explaining all about Ernest, who was, despite being a rocket ship-building genius, a lonely little boy and close to his heart. Jeff listened. He was a very good listener. He kept eye contact, and he made all the right comments, while not interrupting Austin's train of thought.
"Holy shit," he said at the end of Austin's recital. "You spend your holidays with five stepmothers and four sisters? And today was the first time you were involved in a homicide investigation?"
Austin laughed. "I know how it sounds, but they all get along. Seriously. They're kind of like...sorority sisters."
Jeff snorted. "It sounds like a harem."
"Probably. I think being married to my dad must be like baptism by fire. I get the impression they're always burned-out and happy to move on when the time comes. Debra's the only one who has some issues with the family dynamic."
Jeff raised a hand in greeting to a newcomer who sat down at the bar. He appeared to know everyone in Madison. Or maybe he was just a regular in the hotel bar. "Debra is the current missus?"
"Ernest's mother, yeah."
"The documentary filmmaker."
"You really were listening."
"Sure I was." Jeff turned back to Austin and treated him to another of those intimate smiles. He glanced at Austin's wineglass. "Are you planning on finishing that? We should probably head over to the restaurant."
"Let's go. I'm ready." More than ready. It had occurred to Austin that as long as he and Jeff remained in the bar, Jeff would be too much in the public eye for anything interesting to develop between them. Not that anything was necessarily going to develop. Jeff might be one of those guys who flirted with his sexuality but had no intention of truly veering from the straight and narrow, but Austin remained hopeful.
Jeff paid for their drinks, and they walked out of the restaurant to where he had parked beneath the hundred-year-old trees. Austin had been privately betting that Jeff would either drive something small and sporty or a tricked-out pickup truck, but he was wrong. Jeff drove a perfectly sensible Honda Accord.
It was dark by then--darker still beneath the trees--and the evening smelled of sweet pecans and green shadows.
Jeff opened the sedan door. Austin started to get in, but Jeff put a light hand on his shoulder. Austin turned and, reading that smiling, wary look, it seemed very natural and easy to lean back to meet Jeff halfway.
What was it about a first kiss? That first brush of mouths, the first shared breath, the first taste of another person. So often it was just plain awkward. Too much too soon. Too much information. Or alternatively, a quick, clumsy bump with noses or chins or teeth in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kissing Jeff was different. The first kiss was quiet, almost companionable, breath light and pleasantly scented of bourbon close against his face. A pleased-to-meet-you sort of kiss. Jeff's lips were warm, and there was the shape of a smile beneath the firm pressure. Partly, of course, it was simple biology. Jeff smelled good--Austin was falling in love with his cologne--and tasted good. An excellent vintage. Jeff kissed with just the right blend of assurance and sincerity. He kissed like he had spent a lifetime practicing--and maybe he had.
The second kiss was more urgent, less cautious, less practiced. Austin, not exactly inexperienced himself, felt the instant Jeff slipped gears and began to lose himself in the perfect combination of sweet heat and soft pressure. The sound Jeff made--a groan of distressed delight--sent excitement flashing to the base of Austin's spine and ricocheting up to his skull before zinging back down. He opened his mouth, and Jeff's tongue dipped in, exploring with a surprising delicacy. They were not going to make it to dinner if they kept on like this.
Which would be okay. Better than okay, except Austin wanted this evening to last. To his surprise, he wanted to get to know Jeff better. So...dinner.
He gathered his scattered wits, made a tremendous effort, and disengaged. Jeff released him reluctantly, their lips making a tiny popping sound as they pulled apart. A funny sound, but Austin, trying to catch his breath, didn't feel like laughing.