Some people think touring with a bunch of hardcore rockers would be a dream come true.
Most days, life on the bus is more like a nightmare made flesh. Stressful, tense, and claustrophobic as crap.
Keeping the band members from suffocating each other with pillows has been a full-time job since we first hit the road. One day I'm playing referee between longtime friends fighting over the drummer girl. The next I'm Mean Mommy Jillian hiding liquor bottles from the guitarist who splits his time between impromptu stomach pumps at the local emergency room and unscheduled overnight accommodations in the local police station's drunk tank.
And don't even get me started on the one whose name starts with "Letty Dillinger." A hypersexual, walking special effect, she can be the best or the worst of them all, depending on which side of the bed the wet spot is on and whether she woke up on it.
I'm tired. I miss my best friend, the ex-husband who left me for a man. (It's okay. Turns out I'm a lesbian and didn't know it. Go figure.) I long for the touch of a woman who can take me away from the chaos whipping my life like an egg beater, if only for a little while. If the horny beast trapped inside this cage doesn't get out soon, my job, my band, my reputation might not survive.
I don't need love. I just need an orgasm. A really long, hard, knuckle-whitening, teeth-clenching, window-rattling, thigh-splitting climax.
Unfortunately, my employers―Letty especially―aren't going to like where I'm going to get it.
* BANG is LGBTQ erotica that includes FF, MMF, FFF, BDSM, and may trigger sensitive readers. It is not a romance.
Release date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Howling Mad Press
Print pages: 254
Content advisory: NSFW
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into eating hippie food,” I grumble as I settle into the burgundy faux leather bench at the vegetarian restaurant on Prince Avenue. I’ve driven past this place almost every day for the last fifteen years, yet never had any desire to set foot inside. Way too granola for my liking. A lot of Athens is like this.
“It’s not just for hippies. Even carnivores can find something good here,” Miles counters. “And their desserts are to die for.”
As if Miles, Mr. Exercise-Health-Nut-Machine, would ever eat dessert.
A buff, slightly unkempt waiter with a hard-cut man-bob leans across the table to drop off two ice waters. His shirt reads “Forward but never straight.” Miles’s gaze flits across the tight abs plumping the words out of proportion. He grabs the glass and swigs a long drink.
Even if the waiter hadn’t been wearing the shirt, we’d know. We always know.
I snatch a menu, snap it open to the main courses, and flatten it against the table as the guy wanders back to the counter. I can feel Miles’s eyes boring into me. He rests his elbows on the black top and folds his hands, pointing twin index fingers to the ceiling like a church steeple. He exhales heavily.
“Something on your mind?” I look over my dinner options, curling my lip. “Tofu, tofu everywhere. I really could do with a nice, bloody steak.”
“You need to expand your horizons. Try new things.”
“Is that why you brought me here? To watch me choke on vegetables? You know I’m allergic to the color green. It’s poison to the nicotine and caffeine fueling these veins.” I lift my chin to study him.
My ex-husband is a good-looking man, even without his usual tailored suit and cuff links. At thirty-seven, he’s remarkably fit. Marathon training does that to a guy. His hairline’s receding a bit, but he still has a decent head of thick, pepper-colored locks sprinkled with salt on the sides. His nails are barely glossy and cut square, their lines sharp from a recent manicure. Nose has a little dent that throws the otherwise perfectly smooth slope off course. When we were together, I used to imagine skiing down it as a miniature person, dodging the bump so I wouldn’t fly away.
But his most attractive features are his eyes. Their hazel glass is what attracted me to him. Clear, calm, and very to the point. Miles’s eyes mean business. Always have.
Tonight’s no exception.
He hasn’t answered my question. He’s staring. Probing. Like a lawyer. I prompt him with a lifted brow.
“I’m leaving tomorrow for New Orleans,” he says.
I nod slowly. It had to happen sooner or later. The remainder of my appetite rolls over and plays dead. “I see.” My turn to sip some water. “Couldn’t wait to be rid of me, huh?”
“You know this decision has nothing to do with you.” He glances to the painting hanging on the wall above the table. Half a dozen other images by the same artist grace the long span of green and white spackle. Their price tags speak in cold contrast to the scenes whose value they so apathetically sum up.
The medieval-looking oil portrait lording over our booth depicts a buxom woman with her wrists trapped in a wooden pillory. Chickens scatter around her feet. A dark, cloaked figure stands tall and imposing behind her, arms crossed. He wears black leather gloves, which are in full focus despite the perspective. The vague outline of a whip dangles from one fist, its tip barely kissing the dirt.
Her hands dangle languidly from their wooden prison, as if having done recent battle, but no longer capable of fighting. Navy-blue skirts are pulled up to her hips, but her back end is facing away. The top of her left ass cheek is red and splotchy.
The painting seems like a depiction of a cruel punishment for some obscure wrongdoing. Until I notice her face.
Hidden under a mess of red curls, her hooded lids do little to conceal the woozy excitement of a woman recently fucked into oblivion. Eyes fuzzed out of focus, flushed skin, teetering on the brink of all-consuming exhaustion. With cheeks the color of roses kissed by winter, she exudes the defeat of complete submission. Her parted lips seem to breathe the words, “Take me. I’m yours.”
A shiver darts across my arms. I tug the lapels of my gray suit tighter over my breasts and shift my attention to Miles. “What does your decision have to do with, then?” I squirt some of the lemon clinging to the lip of my glass into the water. A seed drops onto an ice cube. I stir with an index finger as I wait for an answer that comes several seconds later.
“I met someone.” His sharp gaze poises like a scalpel over my chest, ready to cut. “I’m going to live with him.”
I resist the urge to hurl another, I see. It would be a lie. I don’t see. I don’t want him to go, even though we’re not together anymore. Stupid, I know. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s my lifeline to this city. To myself. He was supposed to be my thread back through the maze to home if something on the road goes wrong. If we’re both gone …
Instead, I say, “What about your law practice?”
“Setting up a new one.”
“Do you love him?”
The hazel laser blade presses against the skin at my throat and slices. Gently. “Yes.”
Blood pools, filling the invisible hole. Breath leaks through that hole. Subtle panic rises.
I should be relieved. But despite the fact that I’m leaving too, the cut still hurts.
Miles is my last connection to the life I used to lead. The straight life. The “normal” life. Which is positively ridiculous since we’re both as queer as three-dollar bills.
But him taking off is like a mother deer leaving her fawn after weaning. It means I have to stand on my own legs now. By myself.
“I’m happy for you,” I say as the waiter comes back to take our order.
Miles opts for a veggie burger. I ask for loaded nachos. They’re the closest thing I can find to real food, though I’m pretty sure tonight’s fare will be a lot healthier than what I usually eat. Give me fake, plastic, processed cheese over the real stuff any day.
Miles gestures to the painting, a smile tugging the corners of his lips upward like marionette strings. Is his heart pulling them, or his head?
“What do you think?” he asks.
Huffing, I cross my arms and stuff my fists under my armpits. “Of the painting? It’s trash. I’m sick of submissive bullshit like this perpetuating the myth that the second X chromosome somehow makes us weaker than those blessed with Ys. The negative depiction of women is dangerous. It invites suppression and misogyny. We have enough of that in our culture as it is. Don’t get me started.”
He laughs gently. “How do you really feel, Jillian?”
“Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin ravages an array of speakers strategically placed in the corners of the room near the ceiling. All heads startle in unison. Someone behind the counter quickly turns the music down to a tolerable level.
I channel Robert Plant’s rage as he shrieks, “Ah-ah-ahhhhh, AHHH!”
“I don’t think the image has anything to do with misogyny.” Miles picks up his glass and salutes the painting. “Quite the contrary. To me, it speaks more about love than hate.”
“Your new boyfriend dressing you up in a rubber gimp suit?” I joke. When he lifts a guilty brow and barely cocks his head to the side with admission, my heart slams against my rib cage.
A bottom? Miles? No way. No fucking way. Gay, yes. A wussy little bitch begging for a beating? Never.
“What the fuck, Miles?” Lowering my voice, I lean forward.
He shrugs. “Don’t knock it till you try it.”
I sit back, straighter, angry for him. “You’d give up control to someone … like that?” I throw my chin to indicate the shackled woman who seems better suited for the cover of a bodice-ripper romance novel from the 1950s than a hip, new millennium vegetarian restaurant’s wall.
“Would and have.” He checks over his shoulder to see if anyone’s listening and then continues. “You should try it. Submission has worked wonders in all aspects of my life.”
“You’re a goddamn lawyer,” I say, as if his profession alone should speak to the importance of control in all things. God, he should know better. My mind spins. Miles is the most alpha guy I know. He’s a top if there ever was one, which is part of the reason he and I didn’t work out. Well, that, and we’re both gay.
“Being a lawyer is exactly why I need it,” he whispers. “You lived with me. You know how much pressure the job exerts from nine to five. It’s insane. Always having to stay on my toes. Being responsible for irresponsible people. Working against deadlines. That doesn’t even account for the hours I spend working outside of work.”
“I don’t get it,” I confess. “I might be able to see it if you were the top. But a bottom?” Such a foreign concept, especially with Miles’s stern face underlying it.
“People like us spend our days managing everyone else. There’s no downtime, no real relaxation. Sometimes, you just have to let it all go and give that crippling control away. It’s the only way to recharge drained batteries.”
“If I’m not controlling everything in my life down to how many pieces of toilet paper I use to wipe my ass, I get cranky as hell. But, you? You’re so anal—no pun intended,” I quickly add, “about micromanaging every detail of your life, you’d go ballistic if you went a penny over your toilet paper budget at the damn grocery store.”
He laughs. “Exactly why I decided to try it. My doctor said my blood pressure was too high, despite regular exercise and healthy eating. He threatened to put me on a diuretic if I didn’t get my numbers where they needed to be. I can’t deal with having to pee every five minutes. I’ve got enough time-sucks in my life as it is.
“My partner suggested we try something different in the bedroom. I resisted at first, but once I finally allowed him to take over … well, things are better.” He pegs me with a crooked smile. “So much better.”
The tiny part of me that still believes in fairy tales dies from disappointment. Shaking my head, I hold up my hands in surrender. “Whatever you say.” No way in hell.
Our food arrives. The spicy aroma from my nachos makes my mouth water, and I shove a round of loaded chips into my mouth in quick succession.
Talking between bites, Miles says, “You gotta understand something, Jillian. Control is relative. When you think you have it, you absolutely do not. When you think you’ve lost it, you’ve probably found it.”
“Screw that,” I retort. “Control is mine. Always and everywhere. Mine.”
“Not at work,” he counters.
“Yes, at work.”
“Why, did you quit?”
“Turned in my two-week notice a few days ago.”
He lowers his fork. Who eats a burger with a fork? My queer ex-husband, that’s who.
“You’re shitting me,” he says.
“I shit you not.” Crunch. Chew. Swallow. “You’re not the only one who’s leaving.” Feels good to one-up him every once in a while. There’s always been a bit of healthy competition between us.
His eyes widen. “The band?”
“The bands. Both of them.” I dab my mouth with my napkin and guzzle some water. I love working, but I’ve also had a dream for the last few years to see my bands—the girls especially—sit atop the music charts where they belong. I don’t believe in God, but I damn sure believe in talent, and theirs is rare. They need a little finesse, but the foundation is solid. “We’re about to hit the road for a three-month tour.”
His face lights up. “Congratulations. That’s wonderful news.” He leans across the table to pat my arm—not in a condescending way, but a friendly one. “You always did love those Cherry Buzz Float girls. Constantly clucking over them, mother-henning them to death when they aren’t looking. Without them, your life would be as drab as those old plaid curtains your momma used to have in her boudoir.”
We both laugh. “Those curtains were ugly as hell,” I admit. I will not admit, however, to loving my girls. At least not out loud.
“The Killer Dixon boys, on the other hand …” He stops himself.
I smash my lips into a frown. Miles has never met the members of either band, yet he knows them intimately. We talk about them all the time. They’re my pride and joy. Mostly.
“Yeah, Killer Dixon might create some friction where Kate’s concerned, but their new bassist comes equipped with a shiny tour bus, so they’ll all have to deal with being together. I’ve got big plans for both bands.” Assuming Kate and Rax don’t kill each other first. Those two are the troublemakers. I’m gonna have to get creative with finding ways to keep them apart. Full-blown war is not an option on this tour.
Occupational hazard, I guess. But I can handle them. I can handle them all.
I reach into my purse for a cigarette. Shit. No smoking allowed inside. Miles is still eating. I can’t be rude and leave him here while I feed my addiction.
“‘Big plans’ sounds like lots of work,” Miles says.
“I’ll be fine.”
He glances to the hand curled around the cigarette box inside my purse. “You still smoking?”
“You don’t need those crutches, and you know it. If you want a safer crutch, take a break every once in a while so you don’t have a heart attack. Get out of your safe place where you dictate everything, and let someone else be in charge.
“One night with a competent D-type will clear up all those sexual frustrations and let you move on with your emotional life, as well as your physical one. Trust me on this. I know firsthand.”
“What sexual frustrations?” I demand.
He arches a skeptical brow. “When was the last time you got laid?”
I straighten and flip some loose strands of hair from my face. I start to lie, but I can’t with him. He always sees right through it. I bite back my retort.
His accusing gaze softens. “I rest my case.” Always with the lawyer-speak.
That damn painting catches my attention again. The woman’s sated eyes seem to echo Miles’s point. I don’t believe either of them.
“Control is my religion. I live, breathe, and die by it.” I won’t budge on this, no matter how great Miles claims the BDSM shit is. No woman will ever tie me up, beat me up, or shake me up. “I am an island.”
“You are indeed. And you do realize most islands are actually sleeping volcanoes, waiting for the right moment to wake up and cut loose on any unsuspecting persons in their path, right?” Amusement lightens his voice.
I clench my jaw tighter and exhale a little too loudly. “It’s not for me.”
He cuts off another piece of hamburger, eats it, and waves the empty fork at me. “Suit yourself. But, if you’re not going to bare your ass to a pretty Domme with a flogger, you’d damn well better quit smoking. That shit will kill you.”
Control. Maybe it is relative.
Say no to nicotine’s call, and stop smoking to save your life. That, I get. Turn your dignity over to a woman wearing black leather and wielding a whip to save your life? Not so much.
Despite several years of marriage, Miles knows very little about me. But he’s always known what’s best for me.
“I’ll try to give up the smokes,” I say grudgingly. Even as the words leave my lips, I force myself not to look at the package peering up at me from my bag.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Miles’s Yoda impression is terrible.
I burst into laughter. He always finds a way to make me laugh, even when I want to cry. “Okay, okay. I will do,” I echo the same voice.
Damn, I’m going to miss him.
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