Saturday, September 3, 2011
A Thousand Words Thursday Story from Val Kovalin
An excerpt from Call and Answer:
Henri drove straight from work to the Jackson property. The screen door rattled as the guitar player strolled out on the porch, holding his guitar. He wore a black short-sleeve shirt loose over dark trousers, and he called to Henri in French. “How are you this fine night, my friend? Back for more?”
Henri sat up straight, all his senses sharpened. The player had never spoken before. He turned out to have a sexy voice, deep and slightly rough, and he spoke flawless French, not the Parisian schoolbook type, but the French of the land. This land, southwest Louisiana. Most guys their age spoke only English. How could the player know Henri understood French without hearing his accent first or knowing his name?
Henri called back in French, “I like your playing.”
“C’mon up. I take requests.” He watched as Henri approached.
“Henri Broussard.” It came out breathy, as if he were meeting the president.
They stood the same height. Gabriel did not resemble the local black folks, who were more like red-brown mahogany or café-au lait. Instead, he had skin like charcoal that absorbed the light. He extended his hand, and the contrast of his deep-rose palm almost sent Henri to his knees with lust. Henri had never noticed such a thing before.
They shook hands, and Gabriel’s skin felt cool. His grip gave the impression of enormous strength held in check. Meanwhile, they kept speaking the French of the land as if in a dream.
“What you want to hear?” Gabriel plucked a string and adjusted one of the tuning keys.
That earned Henri a blank look. Didn’t Gabriel listen to the radio? “Okay. Hank Williams.”
Gabriel’s face lit with wicked intent. He played the opening chords of “I Saw the Light.” His rough voice sent a shiver through Henri as he sang in English the lyrics that Hank Williams had infused with pain and sincerity. Each mocking, “Praise the Lord!” rolled from Gabriel’s lips like a seduction. As the last chord faded, Henri sensed they would switch back to French. He clapped.
“I mean it. So, you Mr. Jackson’s caretaker?”
“More like he’s my caretaker. I’ve been away.”
That made Henri uneasy. “Away, huh? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means what it means. Sophie brought me back.”
The girl’s name hit Henri like a sucker punch. “Sophie?” Gabriel had been flirting with him. Was it all a lie? Was Sophie his lover?
“Sophie Fletcher. She comes here to sing. Play guitar.”
Tommy Lee’s mama was stepping out on Mr. Fletcher with a young black man?
“I know what you’re thinking,” Gabriel said. “It’s not like that.”
“I hope not. ’Cause Mr. Fletcher, he’ll put you six feet under.”
“I’m an innocent man. Sophie thinks she wants a lover, but I know what she really wants, and that— it’s beyond my power to give. So we pass the time with music. Why don’t you come inside?”
Gabriel took Henri by the shoulder, steering him over the threshold. His cool hand rose to clasp the back of Henri’s sweaty neck—and Henri got an instant hard-on. Good God. His eyes watered and he had to swallow twice in his dry throat.
The cabin had the layout of a shotgun house, and the front room stood empty except for a guitar case propped against the faded wallpaper. Curtains hung over the open window. Gabriel set his guitar in the case, and the strings gave a faint chime. The next room held a narrow bed made up tight with an army blanket. A suitcase on the end table contained men’s clothing.
The last room held the kitchen with the bathroom behind a partition. Gabriel switched on a light over the sink, and Henri hoped his erection didn’t show. It felt huge, pressing against his jeans.
“You want something to drink, Henri Broussard? Ice water? Beer?”
“Which one?” Gabriel’s wide mouth tilted in a smile.
“Water, I guess. So where you say you from?”
Gabriel drew a glass pitcher from the tiny refrigerator that hummed alongside the deep porcelain sink. He poured ice water into a canning jar and handed it over. Their fingers brushed, sending a thrill through Henri, and he blurted, “You not from town or we’d all know you already.”
“Some do. I go way back.”
“You a musician? And you take care of Mr. Jackson’s place?”
“Yes, all that. I got a lot of responsibility.”
“When you find time to sleep?”
“Oh, I don’t sleep.”
Gabriel winked at him, and Henri gulped half the water as they stood together in the kitchen doorway. Gabriel’s gaze drifted around the kitchen, which allowed Henri to stare at him. An easy smile curved his lips.
“You don’t sleep?” Henri asked.
“No, I spend my time as an alligator in the bayou.”
Thanks to Val Kovalin, who shared a snippet of her novel, Call and Answer. You can find the story here, and my review either here or at Dark Divas.
Val’s upcoming novel, Fall Into the Sun, will be coming along later in September, and it sounds like another exciting story.
They should have spent the past 22 years together, but life took some unexpected turns for Bobby Gallegos and Frankie Archuleta. Heartbreak and rejection can harden the hearts of two passionate, stubborn men. One, deeply devout, wanted to attend college. One, who perfected a tough act to deceive his brothers, might have followed his dad to prison. Now, at 40 years old, they maintain a long-distance relationship as sex buddies, who don't quite trust each other.
Their lives have sharply diverged. One is now divorced with two teenagers, who bring him joy and despair. One has just had a near-death experience on the job. When Bobby returns to Albuquerque, he will use sex, persuasion, and memories of their shared past to try to convince Frankie to take a chance on him and reach for the future that they were meant to share together.
We don’t have a buy link yet, but add this one to your TBR list on Goodreads here.