Thursday, June 18, 2015

Guitars and Cages by Layla Dorine: #CoverReveal #Trailer #Giveaway @layladorine

Guitars and Cages
by Layla Dorine

Expected Publication: June 26,2015
Length: 140,765
Genres: Contemporary, Gay, Romance, Drama, Bisexual, Transgender
Asher Logan is a bartender and a pretty wicked guitar player, when he isn’t wrecking his hands fighting in a cage. With a past he keeps hoping to outrun, Asher’s been on a downward spiral for longer than he can remember. When his sister-in-law leaves Rory, his eight-year-old nephew, in his care, Asher is forced into two things he’s never been good at: sobriety and responsibility. As he struggles to care for Rory, his own life begins to unravel. 

When Asher’s brother, Alex, turns up, presenting as a girl and announcing her new name is Alexia, it further complicates matters, as does the arrival of his new neighbor, Conner. Both, in their own way, compel Asher to look at his own closely-guarded views on sexuality. 

When the siblings’ older brother, Cole, reacts violently to Alexia, Asher is placed squarely in the middle of a family conflict which compels him to confront who he pretends to be versus who he really is.

Asher must choose who to trust and who to finally walk away from.

How long does it take to unravel a life? A second? An hour? A minute? A year? In my case it took sixty-three seconds. That’s .0175 percent of an hour, or 63,000 milliseconds, or the time it takes to chug a beer and light a cigarette. Hell, there’s a ton of things I can do in sixty-three seconds; I should know, I’ve kept track of them all. In sixty-three seconds I can open a car door with a coat hanger or make a peanut-butter sandwich. Sixty-three seconds is 11.22 percent of The Doors’ classic The End. It’s the time it used to take to walk from the door of my apartment to the door of my favorite whore. Sixty-three seconds is also how long it took my eldest brother to die after we were left no choice but to pull the plug on him.

One minute and three seconds of gripping his hand, pleading, begging, urging him to breathe on his own, to give us a miracle, to live, because if he didn’t, the rest of us weren’t sure we’d be able to go on living without him.

There’s a difference between life and living, you know. Sometimes it’s a hair’s width, sometimes it’s shades of gray, and sometimes it’s just there and we don’t even realize it until we’re so far over the line that we’ve lost far more than we’ve found. I can’t tell you the exact moment when I got lost. It could have been when the declining beep, beep, beep turned into a loud, unyielding whine. It could have been the moment we shoveled the dirt down onto the coffin, or the moment we stood there, looking at one another, no longer able to stand each other’s company; eyes down, feet shuffling restlessly before one by one we turned away.

It could have been the days, the weeks, the months after that moment, as I pickled my brain in a bottle and lost myself in the firm thighs, gasping moans, and plastic promises of a street-corner whore. Did I lose myself in the fine lines I cut where no one else could see them, in the tattered rooms in which I dwelt, the raggedness of my appearance, and the carelessness with which I went about doing one of the only things I had ever really loved?

Maybe it was all of those, or maybe it was none; I honestly couldn’t say. What I can say is that I know the day, the hour, and the minute when I had no choice but to change.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 5:18 in a morning I wouldn’t have seen if not for the knocking—no, the pounding on my door. The steady cadence of the banging had rattled the plaster in the walls, knocking an old picture damn near on my head. I’d awoken with a groan and tried to ignore the knocking, because if it was the cops beating on my door before the sun was even up then I didn’t wanna know or remember what the hell it was that I’d supposedly done.

Still, it didn’t stop. It kept going until one of my neighbors came out and yelled. Not wanting to be the most-hated guy in the building, since that honor actually belonged to the hoarder in apartment 3C, I rolled from the bed, stumbled over the tangle of my discarded clothes, stepped on the ashtray, and damn near broke my neck on a four-pack of Monster I’d left on the floor. I wrenched the door open, forgetting about the chain, and the recoil yanked me into the rough wooden surface as I fumbled around sleepily before getting the chain undone.

A growled, “What the fuck?” from me, a gasp and a flurry of female hands covering the eyes of a small child, and suddenly I was quite a bit more awake than I’d been. Awake enough to realize I was buck naked with at least three of my neighbors looking on and a vaguely familiar redhead sputtering, gasping, blushing, and glaring at me.

“Kimber?” I stammered, rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I leaned there, looking into her furious blue eyes.

“For God’s sake, Asher,” she hissed, “go put some clothes on!”

“Uhh, yeah,” I muttered, making my way back to my room, my fuzzy brain trying to figure out why the hell my brother’s ex was on my doorstep at the asscrack of dawn. By the time I made it back to the door she’d seen herself and the kid in, closed and chained the door behind her, and was looking around the kitchen with her nose wrinkled in what could only be disdain. I saw her eyes widen when she looked at the pile of dishes and empty bottles in the sink, and then they narrowed as she turned toward me, frowning at my appearance.

“So, uhh, what brings ya by?” I asked as I brushed my fingers through my hair, trying to tame all those strands that seemed determined to stick everywhere. When was the last time I’d had a haircut, anyway?

I tried to give her a smile, but I wasn’t much for people, especially not two hours after I’d staggered in, and the look she was giving me was screaming loud and clear that a pleasant grin wasn’t gonna cool her temper.

Her arms were crossed, and a little face peered around her. “Do you ever answer your phone?”

“It had an unfortunate accident with a pot of chili and I ain’t gotten around to replacing it yet,” I told her, still feeling like an idiot for having dropped the goddamned phone in the pot. Might not have happened if I hadn’t been shaking the damn thing like it was garlic powder while yelling into the garlic-powder jar like a raving lunatic, but that’s what happens when I cook drunk and angry.

She sighed, frustrated, and pulled the little boy from behind her so I could see him. “You do remember your nephew Rory?”

I squinted at the kid. “Uhh, yeah; he, uhh, grew?” It did look like he’d grown since I’d seen him last, I thought. When the hell had I seen him last?

“Yes, Asher, kids grow. Shocking, isn’t it,” she said, and man, did she look pissed… and so very fuckable. I couldn’t help thinking how fun it would be to slide my hands over all those curves, grab a handful of breast, and see how well I could mold that lush little body against mine. God, did I really still think that about my ex-sister-in-law?

I opened my mouth to say something, and then decided silence might be the best bet. No such luck. She went for silence, too; then glaring, until the glare got too heavy and she snapped.

“Aren’t you even going to ask what your nephew and I have come all this way for?” she asked, foot tapping on the cracked green linoleum of my floor.

“Uhh, sure,” I said, knowing with all the uhhing I was doing I likely sounded like a moron by now, but hell, it was five in the bloody morning in my own goddamned kitchen; I had a right to sound like a moron, didn’t I? “Why are you guys here?”

“My boss is relocating me to Montreal. It’s a promotion and Lord knows I need it, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to get settled and find a good apartment and a good school for Rory.”

As she spoke, she fidgeted and twisted one long braid the way she’d always done when she was nervous; meanwhile, I was still trying to figure out what the hell it had to do with me.

“I can’t take him with me while I try to do all that,” she said at last.

“Okay, so...” I began, trying to find words that weren’t going to unleash all that fury she had bubbling beneath the surface. Hell, I could practically see the steam erupting out of her ears as her fingers clenched around her braid so hard I feared she’d yank it from her head.

“I need you to watch him.”

My eyes widened so much I could feel the scar pulling at the edge of the left one. “You want me to what?” I was wide awake now, with the words “no way in hell” right on the tip of my tongue. “Why the fuck didn’t you call Michael? He’s got a kid; he knows what the hell to....”

Her glare and hiss about profanity cut into my tirade and I at least had the good form to look sheepish for a moment.

“Michael is in Japan with Darla and Janie,” she informed me. “Or at least that’s what his ‘business manager’ keeps telling me. Who knows if it’s true or not; it’s not like he’s ever been easy to find. And before you ask, Cole is somewhere in Mexico, no doubt drunker than you, and Alex flat out told me no, which, as much as it scares me, leaves you.”

I couldn’t help it; I chuckled, ’cause when didn’t I draw the short end of the stick in any dealing with my brothers?

“I do not find the situation funny. This place is not suitable for Rory to live in. You shouldn’t be living here, Asher. I always thought better of you than this.” She no longer looked angry, just tired, and more than a little bit sad.

“Yeah, well...” I began, but looking around I didn’t have an excuse for what I’d become. I looked over at my nephew and saw the dark circles under the little boy’s eyes. Damn, the kid looked exhausted.

“Hey, kiddo, why don’t you go sleep on the couch while your mom and I talk,” I told him, and, with a nod from her, he trudged into my living room and curled up on the sofa—clothes, comics, and old pizza boxes sliding onto the floor as he did.

“Look, Kimber,” I said as I turned my attention back toward her, “I don’t have any experience with kids.”

“And whose fault is that?”

I dropped my eyes, because she was one of the few who knew about the child I had but had never seen.

“Asher, you know I wouldn’t ask you if I had any other choice, right?”

“How hard can it be to get an apartment?” I pressed. “I mean, come on, Kimber, you check out a few want ads, drop a deposit, and bam, you’re all set. You can manage the kid and apartment hunting for a couple days, can’t you?”

“Someone who lives in a shithole like this shouldn’t be giving apartment-hunting advice,” she hissed, her eyes narrowing. “It’s way more complicated than you’re making it out to be. I can’t take him with me, Asher. Please, just trust me on this and keep him for me. I hate asking you for this and believe me I will never ask you for anything else again.”

“Okay,” I said. “How long do you think it will take?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

Her fingers twisted that braid again before she stood and rifled through my cupboards. I was about to tell her to mind her goddamned business when she found the coffee, yanked it out, and set about making us a pot. Okay, coffee I could go for, even better if I didn’t have to screw with it myself, so I shut the hell up and let her do it.

“How long have you been drinking so heavy?” she asked, and I slammed my fist on the counter, instantly pissed again.

“I don’t answer to you or anyone!” I shot back, about to point her and her kid toward the door, until she turned those glaring blue eyes at me and I remembered what I’d always felt when I looked into them.

“I’m not saying you do, I’m just hoping you won’t do it in front of Rory,” she said, her voice beginning to waver and lose its bite, betraying how tired she was. “Chase never drank in front of him and you know I don’t drink, so please, if you could refrain for a while?”

“I work at a bar, Kimber,” I pointed out to her.

“Doesn’t mean you have to drink yourself under it,” she shot back, hands on her hips and furious again. She swayed and caught her hand on the chair in a white-knuckled grip I’m sure she figured she could fool me into believing was fury, but I knew the truth. Oh, she was mad all right, but she was outta energy and running on fumes, hell-bent on staying on her feet and glaring me down. I conceded, ’cause my head was pounding so hard I wasn’t sure which one of us would win this battle of wills.

“I won’t drink in front of the kid,” I told her with a sigh.

“Or stagger in and pass out drunk in front of him?” she pushed. “Or abandon him somewhere so you can get drunk.”

“Hey now, what kind of asshole do you take me for!”

“I’ve talked to Eve, Asher. I know exactly what kind of asshole you are.”

“Yeah, well...” I began, sad that she’d come to know me in such a light when all I’d ever wanted was to impress her. “I won’t do any of that, get drunk in front of the kid or pass out drunk where he can find me, or ditch him to get drunk, or even watch movies about getting drunk where he can see the TV, okay?”

“His name is Rory, not kid.”

That was Kimber, always pushing. If I’d stayed living with her and my brother she might have pushed me to be a better man than I was, but I could push, too, and I’d pushed myself right on out the door when I couldn’t have my way. Sorrow and guilt stabbed at the back of my head where I’d shoved them more than once, and that nagging feeling was back, making me wonder if I could have prevented my brother’s death if only I’d been the kind of brother he’d deserved.

“I’ll take very good care of Rory, I promise,” I assured her, knowing I’d at least try to keep that promise. “Besides, I’m working for Morgan.”

I watched her blink twice as that bit of news struck home, and then she sort of deflated into the chair, leaving me to pour the coffee when it was done. For a while we sat there, both of us sipping our coffee and trying hard not to look around at the mess in the room.

“You can stay the night... err, morning,” I offered, as the pigeons began cooing outside the kitchen window, signaling the coming of dawn.

“Just long enough to help you clean and get Rory settled,” she said, and I groaned and scrubbed a hand down my face, lamenting the sleep I’d now most definitely lost.

“I meant to sleep,” I tried, entertaining, for a moment, that old fantasy of our entwined, sheet-wrapped bodies splayed across my bed.

“I don’t have time for that, and who could sleep in this pigsty anyway?” she complained as she finished her coffee and stood, caffeine and stubborn will propelling her. Damned woman. I had half a mind to point out her son sleeping quite peacefully on the couch in a room just as trashed as this one, but thought better of it, figuring I didn’t have enough coffee in me for the blow-up that would inevitably follow.

By noon I found myself the caretaker of the eight-year-old nephew I hadn’t seen in a year, complete with a fridge and cupboard full of “proper” groceries, laundry detergent, fabric softener, and a ton of quarters to do wash with. The kitchen was cleaner than it had been when I moved in, and everything had somehow managed to find itself into its own little place in crates or on top of shelves and furniture. She’d even found my favorite knife, handing it back with a stern admonishment not to leave sharp objects where Rory might hurt himself on them. I’d held the knife tight in my hand, remembering the summer Cole had given it to me, and wondering if she remembered, too.

She also left me with a couple of phone numbers with the hope they might land me a “respectable” job—her words, not mine. Where she’d gotten them from I could only imagine, but she’d lingered awfully long in front of the bulletin board at the supermarket while I’d been loading everything into her rental car, so likely she’d found them there. I’d try them later, after I got an hour or two more sleep, because seriously, if I didn’t get some soon I was gonna cut my head off to make the pounding go away.

Why the job, one might ask, especially since I now had a kid to look after for an indeterminate length of time?

Well, for one, the advance I’d paid on my rent was about up and it wouldn’t do for Rory and me to get kicked out into the street, and for two, Kimber seemed convinced that playing guitar in a bar and bartending when I wasn’t on stage was a waste of my talents at my age. I didn’t think I was that old, but hell, I guess to her twenty-six was supposed to be a grown-up. It’s not like she really wanted to leave the kid with me given the shape I was in, but she had no family, so when Chase had married her, she’d kind of married all of us, and when he’d died... she had nowhere else to go but to one of us. Still, for a few minutes there I was wishing bad sushi on Michael, a shortage of tequila on Cole, and unspeakable horrors on Alex for leaving me holding the bag, or in this case, the nephew.

And hey... did ya know it only takes sixty-three seconds for an eight-year-old to inhale a Snickers bar? And three hours and forty-five minutes for them to stop bouncing off the walls. Note to self: Never, ever give that kid chocolate at bedtime again.

LAYLA DORINE lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.

Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.

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