Illumination

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Adam Craig is burned out. Lead singer of the hard rock band Black Varen, he’s tired of the empty life of groupies, paparazzi, and hotel rooms. Worse, a life in the closet. After the final concert of their latest tour, he flees the afterparty, pursuing memories of lost summers and carefree days, until he passes out on the patio of a shuttered lake resort.

Miles Caldwell is a brilliant artist, tied by agoraphobia and social anxiety to his family’s lodge. Alone but for his parrot, he spends his days illuminating manuscripts and hiding from the complexities of life. When he discovers Adam asleep in a deck chair, he’s furious but intrigued. Adam soon charms his way into Miles’s bed, and they lose themselves in a summer idyll, safe from the compromises and claims of reality.

But Adam’s life, with all it demands, is waiting for him. And Miles, uncertain of Adam’s true feelings, is battling demons of his own. Somehow, the man who’s never home and the man who never leaves it must find the strength to fight for a future together.

Preview

Adam Craig worked his way through the crowd in the hotel suite, champagne bottle in one hand, cigarette in the other. Somewhere in this place was a balcony, he was sure; when they’d checked in earlier in the day he’d noticed it. And he was pretty sure this was the same hotel they’d checked into, since their manager had driven them back to the hotel and not that fucking drunk drummer Eddie.

He took a drag off the cigarette and elbowed his way past a skinny blonde who kept moving in front of him. The smoke was thick and the music way too loud and he was way too drunk and stoned. He needed that balcony, needed the fresh air—though “fresh” was probably a lot to ask for more than a dozen stories above Chicago’s Loop. Okay, air that didn’t taste of cigarettes and pot, but good healthy diesel fumes and smog. Yep, that’s what he needed.

“Awesome gig, man!” someone shouted at him over the scream of metal rock blasting from the suite’s high-end sound system. “You rocked ’em tonight!”

Adam waved the bottle at him and squirmed through the crowd. He nearly tripped over a pile of pillows where Eddie was cavorting half-naked with his girlfriend du jour and her girlfriend du jour, and holy shit, was that the lead from Unmet Potential? He’d thought those guys were in Slovakia on tour. No, he was pretty sure that’s who that was; he’d had a bit of a crush on him until he met him and found out what a fucking dick he was. He stepped over someone’s legs and worked his way along the wall to the sliding glass doors.

Fuck. The balcony was every bit as crowded as the room. Any minute now some asshole was going to get pushed over the railing and paint the sidewalk fourteen floors below. No point in going out there and guaranteeing it.

Someone grabbed his arm, and a Lady Gaga wannabe plastered herself to him. “Hey!” she shrieked. “Wanna fuck?”

“No!” he screamed back.

“Okay!” She wriggled away. A minute later, the crowd shifted and he saw her straddling Chuck the bassist’s lap while Chuck fumbled with the buttons on his 501s. Not very discerning, Chuck—but then again, none of them were. It was kind of pathetic, he thought, and took a swig from the champagne bottle. Not one of the women here would turn down a fuck with one of the guys from either the band or the roadie staff, and he would be willing to bet a grand that none of the male hangers-on in the room would turn it down either—at least not from one of the guys in the band. The roadies would have a harder time of it. He snorted in drunken laughter. “Harder” time. Right. Himself—he was the lead singer and the public face of the band—everyone wanted to fuck him. Not that there was a soul here he actually wanted to fuck.

Suddenly the noise and the smoke and the letdown of this being the last concert on the tour, with only a few weeks in the studio to look forward to, all ganged up on him. “Fuck,” he muttered, and this time worked his way across the room to his bedroom, seeking, if not quiet, then some measure of privacy.

There were three strangers fucking in his bed.

“Fuck!” he screamed, then threw the champagne bottle at them, spraying bubbly across the carpet and the bed and the three strangers. They got out of the way fast enough, but there was no way he was sleeping in that bed tonight. Instead, he ground out his cigarette on the marble table next to the door, and stormed out—out of the room, out of the suite, out of the hotel.

The wind from the lake was brisk and cooled the sweat on his neck. He reached behind and patted himself on the ass, checking to make sure his wallet was still in the back pocket of his leather pants, then hailed a cab. By the time one pulled up at the curb, the cool night air had brought a semblance of sobriety to his brain. He slid into the backseat, intending to tell the driver the name of a bar on Rush Street. Instead, he found himself telling the cabbie to drive to Milwaukee.

“Where on Milwaukee?” the cabbie asked.

“Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” Adam said. “You know. In Wayne’s World, when they went to Milwaukee to see Alice Cooper? I wanna go there.”

“They don’t make movies like that no more,” the cabbie agreed, and put the car in gear. “Gonna cost you, though.”

“You take plastic?” Adam handed him his AmEx card.

The cabbie ran it through and gave it back to him. “Cab’s all yours, dude.”

Adam lay back against the cracked vinyl seat and fell asleep.

Categories: Stories.
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