Released: November 1, 2014
Genres: MM Romance and Contemporary
Publisher: Jugum Press
GMR 5 STAR REVIEW
WILL SEATTLE MAKE A MAN OF HIM YET?
It’s 1991 and Steven Frazier has danced away half a decade in the Seattle club scene with his beautiful-but-poisonous best friend, Adrian. Two glittering princes against the world, too high above life to care about what they might be missing.
But everything changes when a chance meeting with older—not to mention handsome—businessman John Pieters, reveals a cosmopolitan world and possible futures Steven’s never considered.
Flashy club clothes won’t impress John, this charming man who knows so much about many things. Motivated by fantasies inspired by his crush on John, can Steven finally fight Adrian’s sick hold?
As he steps out into the larger world, supported by new friends, Steven must prove to John—and to himself—that he’s not a hedonistic rhinestone club kid, but a true diamond in the rough.
In 1991 we find Steven deep in the Seattle club scene with his hot but destructive friend Adrian. They are the envy of everyone who knows them as they live the high club life like no one ever has. Now things will start to change for the guys as Steven meets the older businessman John. He introduces Steven to the future of huge possibilities and more importantly he becomes a motivation for Steven to leave the club scene behind and grow as a person. The party scene won't impress John as he has seen it all and now Steven has feelings for John but will the dreaded Adrian get in his way?
Adrian is a broken guy and uses people for what he can get out of them and lets be honest we all know this type of person. He has been friends with Steven for years and now that he might be replaced he starts acting quite cruel to Steven. I only wished we knew more about Adrian and his background. After a few things that happen, Steven is starting to finally see the real Adrian now that John has opened his eyes. Steven keeps reminding himself of John and he has become a huge motivation to keep pushing for the life he really desires. This is completely Stevens coming of age story as John motivates Steven but it's all Steven that actually is changing his for the better. I really enjoyed this coming of age story as it was told in a very different style which was just simply brilliant. I loved how the author created the character of Steven and the journey she took us on of self discovery of the person that he was always meant to be. The other characters were so beautifully developed in such a way that added to the character of Steven. John's character was so important as he showed Steven what was waiting for him in a world of huge opportunities. The author captured 1991 in Seattle so beautifully that I for one would have loved to experience life back then. This novel...This Charming Man was a sweet and brilliantly written novel that I recommend for all readers.
©2014 Ajax Bell
3000 word excerpt
“You said you came to Seattle for college. But what made you stay?” Steven asked.
John settled back in his chair, his collar gaping slightly, teasing Steven again with the soft skin of his throat and a glimpse of the tangle of hair on his chest.
“Ah, Seattle,” John mused. “You know after a beautiful day like this one, it’s impossible to imagine living anywhere else. Of course, we slog through so many grim days, but then the mountains finally come out, and the water reflects blue instead of grey. And from every view, it looks like you’re standing on top of the world, able to scale every peak. It’s hard to imagine living somewhere like New York, or even San Francisco.”
John paused and sipped his espresso, politely ignoring Steven’s intense scrutiny. In the pale evening sunlight Steven noticed that John’s hair was sandy blond, streaked faintly with white, not the pale blond Steven had seen indoors. His nose was a bit off center, as if it had been broken a long time ago. Setting his cup down, but keeping his hand on it, spinning it in the little plate, John continued. “I don’t think everyone gets it, but for some people, whether you’re from here or moved here, Seattle gets inside you, and you can’t help but love it.”
Inappropriate responses rose unbidden in Steven’s mind. I’d like you to get inside me and love it. I can’t help but love you. Fortunately, his fear of public embarrassment overruled any such comeback. Steven licked his lips, looking away—he’d find a better response if he couldn’t see John. He was supposed to be talking about Seattle, right? What did he like most?
“I’ve never lived anywhere else, but I’ve traveled a little. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as a sunrise over Mount Rainier on a clear day. Even just catching a glimpse of the mountain driving over the 520 bridge is a reminder of
how beautiful the world is. How we should all pay better attention.”
“The view of Rainier at sunrise from Drumheller fountain on the UW campus is probably one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen,” John said.
Steven nodded, wanting nothing more in the world than to watch the sunrise and the mountain with John.
“Speaking of UW,” John said. “How come you’re doing homework in July?”
“Trying to get through as quickly as possible. Summer means more credits in less time. And honestly, the classes are better. You only get the really serious students.”
“Ambitious.” John studied him.
“And what about you, John? What are you doing that you’re headed home from work only to do more work? I confess I’m not exactly sure what you do. I know Lisa works for you, but I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have any idea what she does, except it involves finances. Or finance, which I know is different.”
“Ha, finance, yes. Lisa probably doesn’t want to bore you too much with the details. It’s easiest to say that I’m primarily in investment banking. Lisa helps oversee a few other ventures I have.”
Steven laughed. “No, I’m sure it’s interesting. So you research companies, right? Learn about different technologies? No, that doesn’t sound boring at all. I want to know more.”
John grinned. “Yes, indeed, I do those things. It isn’t just moving money around.”
While John spoke, Steven was again distracted by his hands: unbuttoning his cuffs and carefully turning them up to the middle of his forearms. The hair on John’s arms was fine and pale like the hair on his head, though it might feel scratchy if Steven rubbed his cheek over it like a cat.
John continued to answer Steven’s question, and Steven found that he was truly as interested in what John had to
say as he was in discovering whether the skin on the inside of John’s wrist was salty. Squeezing his thighs together again to push back the rising physical attraction, Steven focused on John’s explanations.
“We make a lot of decisions about how much money to put where, and how to decide what kind of investments are best suited to each different investor. There’s so much research to do, we often take advice wherever we can get it,” John said. “If it’s a small company doing something new, it’s hard to gauge the market for what they are offering when no one has offered that before. Even with a restaurant, a new concept can make it hard to project what will happen.”
“I can see that with restaurants. Like all the Asian fusion places right now? Who could guess that just Chinese or Thai food wouldn’t be enough?” Steven sipped his coffee to keep more useless words from spilling out of his mouth.
“Exactly,” John laughed. “I regret not investing in one of those when I had the chance. But I thought the same: why would you blend all Asian food together? Yet it does seem to appeal to a wider audience, though I’d be hard pressed to tell you why.” He appeared at ease as he spoke, his hands turning in small gestures to punctuate his words. His crisp shirt and tie should be out of place on this porch full of people in scruffy jeans and flannel shirts, but his own innate calm made him appear he belonged here. When Steven first saw John, he’d pinned him as both out of place and fitting in perfectly, the same as now, though both the clothes and context were different.
“Do you invest in restaurants?” Steven asked, wanting just to listen. He enjoyed watching John talk so much.
“A couple, but just with friends I trust, and that I don’t mind losing money with. Too risky. Small business investing is great, but there are surer bets than restaurants. I do investments in larger companies for other people as well. A good chunk of my regular income is from making money for other people.”
“Wouldn’t you be better off making all the money for yourself to begin with?” Steven leaned back, aware he
mimicked John’s posture. Except his own casualness felt forced. John inhabited a parallel universe where people had enough money to lose on investments.
“You’d think so, but where does the money come from? If I have only ten dollars to invest in a good opportunity, but suppose someone offers to invest a thousand dollars and give me five percent? If I can see there’s a chance of a large return on their investment, then I have a chance to make even more money than I would on my own.”
“Like gambling with someone else’s money.” Steven pushed back his discomfort at discussing money at all. His upbringing discouraged discussions like this, but John was obviously comfortable with it. This was like another kind of coming out, where you could speak openly about anything, including money or religion, not just sex.
“Not even like it. It is gambling with someone else’s money. But it’s also helping people succeed in ways they couldn’t do on their own. It can be touchy if people don’t understand what they are risking. But the rewards can be great for everyone.” John sipped his espresso.
“Interesting. I’m reading a lot about software venture capitalism lately. It’s a complicated situation when the nerd geniuses have to present a vision to people who can’t understand the basics of what is happening with computers.”
“Yes, there’s likely a lot of missed opportunity right now. I know folks who’ve had IBM stock for decades are now finding themselves much wealthier. What will the future hold that we can’t yet see? What tech opportunity will we wish we’d been in on from the ground floor?”
Steven struggled to hold on to the thread of the conversation, too focused on John’s mouth.
“I feel like that about school right now,” Steven said, shaking off fantasies about the thick pink curve of John’s lips. School, he thought, willing down an ill-timed erection. “Computer science was the right choice, because I love it, not because it’s a moneymaking opportunity. But everyone we read about seems to be on the verge of discovery. Like,
all these new ideas are swirling around, nothing solid yet, but everyone waiting to see if they have the next big thing.”
“What do you think the next big things will be, Steven?” John leaned forward, head tipped to listen to Steven’s answer. Steven felt comfortably pinned under the intensity of John’s gaze.
“I don’t know. The Internet maybe. Access is becoming available to libraries all over the world. I can see information at a hundred other universities, just from my chair. And there’s so much information stored, I wonder how fast technology will catch up with it and how it will be kept safe.”
“If we put all information on computers, then it’s like everything else in the world, right? Some people will want to hide things away, others will want to steal it. And what about financial transactions?”
“What about that?”
“The software all has to work together so when everything goes digital, people trust it enough to use it.”
John nodded. “I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right. ‘When everything goes digital.’” He looked thoughtful as he repeated Steven’s words.
Steven went on. “Half my classes now are with students who’d be there anyway, who love math, or who get the way it works, like I do, and want to dig in and see what they can make. But there are others now, people more interested in thinking about what programs can do—and how they can make money off them. Not that that’s bad, it’s just a different outlook.”
Steven drank the rest of his now-cold coffee. John settled his chin in his fist, body tipped toward Steven. It was gratifying to be listened to like that.
“It’s made me think more about what I want to do,” Steven said. “Not just whether I help design code for software, but what kind of software? What will it do? How will it help people? It’s pretty exciting. It was like puzzle-
solving when I took my first class. But six months later, I’m thinking a bit about how I can help change the world.”
“I admire a man who sees when the road he’s chosen isn’t the right one and submits to finding the better road, the one that rewards him for hard work. You don’t seem at all afraid of hard work.” John’s voice dipped on the last sentence. Steven blinked. It was a compliment for sure, but Steven’s imagination and the gorgeous distractions of John’s body blurred his thinking, leading him to find a sexual charge in benign statements.
Dirty thoughts aside, he was elated that John appreciated Steven’s hard work. He rambled on, wanting the praise but not wanting to make too much of what he really did. Studying was merely time-consuming, not complicated.
“Yeah, it’s still all school: reading, studying, solving problems I initially don’t understand.” Steven waved his hands over the books spread out in front of him. “But it does feel exciting, like I’m where something is happening. Does that make sense? I mean, nothing happens at school except people talking about ideas. But this isn’t Philosophy. These ideas are going somewhere.”
“What’s wrong with Philosophy?” John said, smiling. “It’s what I studied as an undergrad. But yes, I understand what you mean.”
“Sorry, I wasn’t trying to insult you. I just meant that Philosophy is more abstract. More like pure math than computer science.”
John laughed. “I’m not insulted. I became neither a philosopher nor a professor. It was like what you said last time we talked, about Anthropology being appealing until you realize you’d have to work in academia forever. You figured that out much earlier than I did.”
“How did you end up going from Philosophy to finance?”
“The easy answer is that I was given a choice between being a penniless academic or having a large financial stake in my family’s business. Or, perhaps, what was exciting at eighteen seemed less practical at twenty-four, and I like to
think I’m a practical person. Of course, many other things happened.” John glanced at his watch.
“Do you have to go?” It was the proper question to ask, but Steven didn’t want the answer to be yes.
“Not yet.” John smiled. “Life has a funny way of pushing you in unexpected directions. Though sometimes it’s good to be pushed to take direction. But I’m sure you know that.”
John licked his lips. Steven was almost convinced that he was being teased. Honestly, the idea had never crossed his mind, but the thought of John directing him, telling Steven where to touch and what to do, burned through Steven’s belly. He twisted slightly in his chair.
“So what do you do when you’re not making other people rich? For fun?” In any other situation it would be laughable that Steven changed the subject away from school, because he was getting hot and bothered. Though if John was doing it on purpose, there likely was no safe subject.
“For fun? Depends on your definition of fun. I restore old furniture. It takes a little woodworking and a lot of sanding and chemicals, but once I learned how satisfying it is to repair old things, I couldn’t stop.”
“That makes sense.”
When John looked quizzically at him, Steven explained. “Your hands. They aren’t office guy hands.” Steven cringed at what he’d revealed about how closely he’d observed John. “Why furniture?”
John glanced down at his hands and swiped his thumb over the calluses on his palm as he spoke. “I bought an older house and spent years working with a couple friends to restore it, to take the 1950s revisions out and get back closer to its original. I had to learn to do woodwork refinishing as I went along. When I was done with the house, I started furnishing it with secondhand furniture that needed as much love as the house did. It’s become an addiction.” John looked distant, dreamy. Steven became convinced that he’d just imagined the flirty, dirty undertone in John’s comments.
“Where’s your house?” As innocent as that question might sound, Steven was crossing a line.
“Sixteenth, off Prospect, near the Park.” John tilted his head to indicate north, a few blocks from where they sat.
“Nice. Wow, nice up there. I live on Mercer and Bellevue. Totally different world.”
“More apartments and fewer houses, for sure,” John said.
“I’m sure your neighbors aren’t all junkies and rock musicians. Well, mine might just be rock musicians and not junkies, since they can afford the rents. It’s hard to tell the difference.”
“Capitol Hill has changed so much in the last fifteen years, since I first moved here. I’m not entirely sure that my neighbors aren’t all rock stars, or at least involved in some shady activity to afford the prices now.” John again looked at his watch, and then up into the darkening sky. Steven’s heart fell. “Look how late it is. I’m afraid I’ve kept you from your homework again.”
“No, I asked you to stay, which kept you from your own work. Sorry I rambled on.”
“If rambling is the charge, then I think we’re both guilty.” John winked. Steven smiled involuntarily. John’s eyes stayed locked on Steven’s. “As before, you’ve were very informative, Steven. You are full of useful information about technology. Do you mind if I make use of you and your knowledge?” John stroked his fingertips on the back of Steven’s hand, a too-brief questioning touch. Then John’s hand was back in his own lap.
Certain now that he hadn’t imagined the suggestiveness in John’s comments, Steven swallowed hard and tried his own game. He said, “Of course. Whatever you need. Use me any way you want.”
John’s eyebrows went up. His smile twisted into a promising smirk. “I’ll definitely use you, Steven.” Steven flushed, leaning toward John, wanting to feel John’s fingers on his hand again, anywhere on him. John said, “Unfortunately, tonight I do have other people’s money to
gamble with. Or at least a lot of paperwork to that end. I should get going.”
Steven smothered his disappointment. “Yes, and I should finish my homework. We aren’t going to change the world sitting here drinking coffee.”
“You never know. Maybe this conversation will set off a spark for you, set you on the right path. Though I’d say you’re nearly there.”
John stood. Steven did too, reaching for the touch he wanted from John’s handshake. John gripped tightly, his fingers brushing over the pulse in Steven’s wrist. He looked into Steven’s eyes again.
“Steven, you’ve been a lovely diversion tonight. Perhaps next time we meet, I won’t be pulled away by work. And we can take our time with each other.”
“I’d like that.” Steven felt his chest heave as the words came out. He tried to smile a normal, friendly goodbye.
John’s smile curled in wry satisfaction. Steven had no doubt that John’s word choices had been intentional.
Steven stayed standing, staring dumbly at the deck’s empty steps where John had departed. He sank back into his chair, exhilarated and shaky.
The thrill of this fantasy was new, that an attractive, smart man understood him. This wasn’t just about sexual desire. Trying to focus on the pages he needed to read, Steven strayed from wondering how John’s mouth might feel pressed against his to imagining the house John had restored with his own calloused hands. He pictured them in the dining room, reading the paper together before work, discussing whether Apple would ever be a worthwhile investment. Or sitting in front of an old marble fireplace arguing the merits of Philosophy versus mathematical solutions. Would Steven do all the cooking? Or would John come in and help when they had dinner parties?
A Seattle native now living in the southern American hinterlands, Ajax Bell likes pretty boys, beautiful women, and good jokes. She believes the best things in life are loud music and bourbon. No matter what the task she always has right pair of shoes. She's never been a sea captain but a background in library sciences and a lifetime of pencil pushing has left her with a rich fantasy life and a compulsive need to write it down. She hopes to one day own a genetically altered hippopotamus the size of a small dog.