Join Prism Book Alliance® as Edmond Manning goes Outside the Margins today.
Hey friends, I published a book! Wahoooooooooo!
I wrote this great rant for this month’s column about people who irritate me in supermarkets, but decided to spare you. Instead, I’m offering an excerpt from Come Back To Me, with narrator Vin Vanbly, on a weekend date with Mark Benson, a twenty-four year old college student from Newark, New Jersey. Vin showed up Friday night and took Mark’s virginity in a most spectacular way. Now, Saturday morning, Vin tries to cope with his guilty feelings and handle an awkward encounter…
Breakfast was an unmitigated disaster, between Mark asking questions about my life in St. Paul, and my lame attempts to answer. I can’t talk about my life. How could I explain the odd skills I continuously sharpen are exclusively for King Weekends? How do you explain you have no hobbies but shooting pool and insomnia? He asked me how I hung out with my friends. I changed the topic. What should I have said? I have no friends? On every topic, I was elusive and mumbly quiet. I’m not good at normal conversation. I know what to say on a King Weekend. I always know what to say. Around Mark, I must fight to prevent his seeing the real me, the broken, dysfunctional mess I am.
Of course, it won’t matter after this weekend.
I’ll never see him again.
Despite my perverse inability to converse, our connection remained. He laughed at some of my distracting comments. He blushed and grinned as I reminded him of fucking last night. But is that a good thing or bad thing? I want him to have an amazing deflowering weekend…but I don’t want him feeling in love after I leave. In emails, I explained he would likely develop feelings for me. I explained he should enjoy those feelings but accept the limitations. I am a one-weekend kind of guy. I explained this. He understood. He agreed.
Deal with it later.
One good thing from breakfast is I made the decision to deal with all of it later—his feelings for me, the bareback sex. Mark made his sausage links argue in Brooklyn accents, prompting me to decide there’s no point to spoiling our time together. I mean, I do like him a lot. He’s hot. The sex is unbelievable. And he’s funny. Of course I like him a lot. If I didn’t already enjoy him, I couldn’t have shown up for this crazy weekend. Do people actually do this? Meet online for a weekend to hang out and have sex? What on earth do they talk about?
We walk in silence, watching the Ironbound neighborhood wake up. Awkward for me, but Mark is humming and unconscious of how hard it is for me to merely hang out. Not control our every conversation.
C’mon, Vin. Navel gaze later.
Newark surprises me with its charm. When I travel to this part of the country, I spend my time in New York. I don’t go to Jersey. But Ironbound boasts colorful blue-collar homes, apricot and lemon on tree-lined streets. On our right, an olive-green Victorian is meticulously painted, its trim and porch spindles pink-orange and gingerbread brown, two surprising colors complementing well. For some reason, the colors inspire me to believe people from different backgrounds can be friends. The brick building on our right displays burnt-yellow mums on its front stoop, basking in the bleak November sun. The faded blue mailbox perched at the corner is slathered in layers of graffiti, true, but the streets are well maintained. Not much scattered garbage. We turn left and pass a bakery, already open for many hours according to their sign, and a bead shop, which won’t open for another hour. A blocker farther, sidewalk chalk advertises an art show somewhere in the neighborhood later today. Might be fun to attend. Is that what people do on non–King Weekends? I don’t know. Most shops aren’t open, but a few, here and there, blink their eyes in the morning sun. Ready to start the day.
“I was right about those pancakes, wasn’t I?”
I say, “You were right.”
“I know my cakes. The pecan ones are their best.”
“The bacon was perfect. Crispy with fat. Hey, you know this neighborhood well? Restaurants and stuff?”
Mark says, “Sorta. We didn’t spend a lot of time here. The ’Guese get pissed when you try to pick their pockets, so my friends and I stuck to Penn station and a few other hot spots.”
“Portuguese. This is their neighborhood, predominantly. They keep it up.”
He looks so innocent, smiling at me, at the sun, at everything, I forget he possesses street experience. Never in a formal gang, never that level of trouble, but when he and his buddies needed spending money, they acquired it. In an IM, he once referred to stealing as “kid stuff,” but I think he might have been a tougher kid than most. In an email, he described his first true fistfight at twelve. His description made me want to puke. But the sun now beams on him, and he beams back with showy confidence. Is this his natural confidence, or does he glow from last night’s sex? Don’t know.
Odd to think I only knew him for an hour in his virgin state.
We pass a shopkeeper with braided gray hair, sweeping her stoop before business arrives, and it’s so idyllic, the sunlight, her sweeping, I can’t help but compliment her on her long skirt, Celtic tribal patterns flowing to her ankles. We chatter, me flirting, asking if she’s single, and, okay, maybe swaggering a teeny bit for Mark, who laughs with his hands over his face until she shoos us away with her broom and resumes her task, shaking her head.
Mark says, “You’re the worst. You know that?”
“Oh, come on. She flirted back.”
“She hit you with a broom, Vin. You’re terrible.”
He’s right. I am terrible. But even that cannot ruin this morning.
Hell, I survived breakfast conversation.
A block and a half later, we reach a local grocery, and Mark suggests grabbing bottles of water. Good idea if we continue to wander on foot. I’m not sure if we are, because I’m not in control of this. But I’m not panicking. Am I? No. Not yet. I underestimated how stressful this would be, not knowing how we will spend today. I have no script. I have no planned activities until retrieving his suit, and then dinner tonight. What do we do? Just talk? About what? I exhausted all my conversational topics over breakfast. I can’t do this.
Don’t freak out.
As we ponder the many water options, Mark says, “The kind of water you pick out will tell me a lot about what kind of person you are. Fizzy or fruit flavored? Are you more of a vitamin water guy or—”
“Mark? Mark Benson?”
An older man—well, not older exactly, maybe ten or so years older than me—interrupts Mark’s impromptu psychology test, and Mark’s reaction is to make his face blank. He’s uncomfortable.
Mark says, “Hey, Coach.”
His voice sounds weak and unsure.
The man regards me with a curt smile, as if trying to determine what business I have with someone he knows. I feel him evaluating me, even as he faces Mark. Instinctively, I dislike him. Something is off. He’s holding two cans of Brussels sprouts, but that’s not it. Though seriously, who buys canned Brussels sprouts? He looks normal enough, windbreaker, and a Newark Bears baseball cap. Black-and-gray tufts coming from either side. Little paunch, not too much.
Oh shit—do I recognize him from somewhere? Is that it?
“How’ve you been, Mark?”
Do I know this guy from my past life? Shit!
No…no, wait. Calm down. You’re on edge. You’re freaking out for no reason. You don’t know this guy.
“Good. Great, really. You?”
“Good, good.” The coach glances at me. “Same old, same old.”
I don’t know him. He looks familiar, but no. I would have remembered his unfriendly face. He’s not ugly, just unfriendly.
An uncomfortable silence falls among us.
I could say something—anything—to remove this tension, but fuck it. I want to see what Mark does. Will he introduce me as his date? Will he pretend we’re buddies or invent a lie of omission? I won’t get offended if he does, but what will he do? He said he was out of the closet to everyone who matters. Who will he choose to be?
At last, Mark says to me, “Coach used to coach me in little league. Again in traveling league.”
Coach trains his steely eyes on me. “I’ve known Mark a long time.”
Coach waits for me to chime in.
Well, fuck him. I refuse to give him any information. I smile pleasantly. Nod.
He holds out his hand. “I’m Jim.”
I shake it. “Hi, Jim.”
Mark blushes hard, and I hate doing this to him, making him squirm, but it’s important he sees who he is in these moments, when his adult life as a sexual man clashes with those who knew him back when.
“This is Vin,” he says, the words rushing out of him. “We’re on a date.”
Coach Jim doesn’t allow surprise to show on his face. “Oh, you are?”
A thrill of pride rushes through me. Good for you, Mark. Good for fucking you.
I nod. Smile pleasantly.
Also smiling, Jim says, “You seem much older than Mark.”
Smile pleasantly. “Do I?”
“It’s a first date, but it’s going well,” Mark says, obviously flustered. “But we should get going. We’ve got a lot to do today.”
The man nods with an abrupt quality and I hate the judgment he’s showering on Mark. He’s bullying Mark. Simultaneously, I’m delighted how Mark handles this man, this judgmental prick.
Jim deliberately ignores me. “How’s your mom, Mark? How’s she doing?”
“She’s okay,” he says, obviously squirming. “Not great. I mean, not terrible, just not…just not…not well, right now.”
Obviously, this former coach presses a known sore spot. Asshole. I hate to witness Mark struggle like this. I wonder what’s wrong with his mom. If I had stalked him, I’d know. He never talked about her. I should ask later.
“We should go,” I announce. “Lots to do, Coach.”
He returns his hard gaze. “Is that right, Vin?”
What an asshole!
“Yeah, Jim. Sex, mostly. Lots and lots of sex.”
Jim is clearly too surprised to speak.
“Oh my god,” Mark says under his breath.
He takes my hand, and after grabbing the two closest bottles of water, says, “Good to see you, Coach. Take care.”
As soon as we’re a dozen feet away, Mark says, “You have, like, zero people skills.”
“I didn’t like how he pressured you.”
“Yeah, well, I handled it.”
“You did. Very well. I’m genuinely impressed.”
“Oh, boy. That means a lot coming from the guy who brags about our sex life to people at the supermarket. Great job with that.”
We reach the checkout line, the shortest one, which is three or four patrons deep. He hasn’t let go of my hand. Mark chuckles to himself, and I sense he’s not terribly upset after all.
“I can’t believe you, Vin. ‘Lots and lots of sex.’” He guffaws. “What kind of person says that? Why would you—were you raised in a barn?”
This tweaks me in an unpleasant way.
“Rats. I was raised in the sewers by rats.”
Why would you say that, you idiot?
I’m horrified that sentence popped out of me the way it did. I felt a sharp stab of irritation by his “raised in a barn” comment, and yet, I didn’t mean to share that! Fuck! What is wrong with me?
“Well, my money was on raised by wolves. And don’t try to gross me out talking about rats. I love rats. I owned two growing up. Whiskers and Horace the Great. They crawled all over me while I slept. It was very comforting. Patty hated them but Brian liked them. He and I used to have rat races.”
Mark’s not afraid of rats?
Before I can formulate any further thoughts, I ask, “Why Horace ‘The Great’?”
Mark places our water bottles at the end of the conveyer belt. “Because he was great.”
Change the subject. Change it! “What does our water say about us, Mark? What was revealed?”
“That we’re mortified and desperate to get out of the store,” he says.
While he shakes his head with exaggerated disappointment, I see him laughing. He turns away while simultaneously leaning against me and says, “Oh, Vin.”
He likes rats.
Maybe today will be a good day.
Title: Come Back To Me
Author: Edmond Manning
Publication Date: 08/23/2016
Cover Artist: LC Chase
After years of lying, scheming, and dangerous manipulation, Vin Vanbly finally gets what’s coming to him: love.
How can he survive unstoppable, uncontrollable love when his very nature demands he control everything? Clues about his one true love—tantalizingly hinted at in each of the books in The Lost and Founds series—come together in four life-changing stories.
In No Kings, a sex hookup with a parking lot stranger reveals more about Vin’s life as a Lost King and his destiny than he could have dreamed. In King Fitch, Vin meets the last king in his long legacy, one final weekend before he withdraws from the world to an anonymous Latin American jungle. The Lost Ones recounts a terrifying kidnapping by street thugs from Vin’s past. In King Malcolm the Restorer, Vin’s mysterious relationship with his older brother—and the soul-crushing secret which drew them together—is finally revealed.
Through it all, Vin Vanbly struggles to survive. But what if he is destined for more than mere survival? Is he finally ready to embrace the truth and remember who he was always meant to be? Once there were a tribe where every man was the one true king and every woman the one true queen…
About Edmond ManningEdmond Manning is the author of King Perry, King Mai, The Butterfly King andFilthy Acquisitions. He spends a great deal of time standing in front of the fridge with the door open, wondering why it’s not stocked with more luncheon meats and cheese.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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