I love suffering with my sex. I'm not talking about BDSM (though there's always at least a sprinkling and sometimes a heaping helping of that in my novels, as well). No, I mean pathos. Conflict and turmoil. Angst.
I saddle my darlings, the denizens of my fictional realms with a mountain of emotional baggage, because it's so much more fun to watch them go to their lover (or lovers) nervous, trembling, frightened, guilty or ashamed than to watch two people run at each other with no bigger challenge ahead than how to most efficiently get each others' zippers open.
Although this is my first novel about a gay couple, like those in Hurt, After, and Abduction, the lovers at the center of Dangerously Happy are a hot mess. Gorgeous. Talented. Insatiable. And a little broken inside.
Aidan is a gifted musician who's all but let his dreams and his passion die by playing it safe all his life. He let his father talk him out of studying at the music conservatory, and into a steady but spirit-numbing career in IT. Instead of joining the Peace Corps after graduation, he moved in with his college girlfriend. And instead of creating the innovative music that makes his soul fly, he's settled for jamming with his drinking buddies in a generic rock band.
Then the luminous, magnetic Dario—a local author possibly on his way to national fame—hurls a wrecking ball through Aidan's lazy complacency. Aidan's never been with a man before. He's never so much as considered it. But from the moment he succumbs to Dario's seductive power, his life will never be stagnant or easy again.
I'm always stirred by the frisson of reluctant sex, but as a writer, I'm perennially hunting for ways to find that guilty pleasure within a believably tender and loving relationship. In Abduction, I wrought that tension between Devan and Conrad out of his frightening but sincere conviction that by taking her hostage and forcing her to experience the fantasies she'd written, he was giving her a beautiful gift. With Galen and Vanka in Hurt, he tiptoes along the line between reluctance and consent as he helps her deal with anger and grief over a terrible illness. And in After, Smith is faced with the excruciating moral dilemma of protecting one young woman, or ensuring the continued existence of the human race.
Compared to the elaborate machinations of those first three novels, the seduction of a straight guy by a gay man is much less of a contortionist's act. And this is what I love about it. Our sexuality is infinitely more fluid than many people are comfortable admitting. A young man having to face the dilemma of walking away from what might be the best sex of his life—maybe even the love of his life—or face the emotional turmoil and social repercussions of admitting he's gay or bisexual, is a real and believable situation. One that lots of people have been through.
As one character in Dangerously Happy points out, it's gradually getting easier for gay people to come out. But for someone who has identified and lived as a straight person all their life, and who is still attracted to people of the opposite sex, how powerful a physical and emotional attraction is necessary to make the risk of coming out as bisexual worth the price?
These are the questions tormenting Aidan as he succumbs not only to Dario's magnetic seductiveness, but as the emotional connection between the two of them gradually deepens. And that inner turmoil Aidan suffers makes every kiss, every caress, every night in Dario's bed deliciously fraught and intense.
Dario is not only Aidan's first foray into gay sex; he's also an infinitely more experienced lover who thrives on dominating and—with the right man—being dominated. Dario's power plays reveal a dark side of sex and love that scare Aidan, especially when Dario's former lover Xavier comes on the scene like a ravenous cannibal warrior bristling to bend both men to his will.
But real mayhem descends on their lives when a sexual predator makes Dario's loft his stalking ground during their recurring weekend art and music events, and Aidan realizes that Dario is still dealing with deep wounds from a trauma in his own dark past.
If you're like me and you take perverse enjoyment in watching lovers suffer through beautiful agony en route to their little death, I think you'll find Dangerously Happy a pleasurable and ultimately sweet and tender read.
Without so much as a passing shadow of confusion or doubt, with that confidence of his that was as assuring as it was assured, holding my gaze, he asked, “Do you want to stay?”
God, he looked happy. He took a step or two forward, until we were close enough to touch, but he didn’t touch me. He stood still, gazing at me without a trace of embarrassment or awkwardness, but like he was waiting for something from me. “Then I’m going to kiss you.” He moved, brought his body, his face closer to mine. Raised one hand, brushed it briefly against my arm, my shoulder, my jaw. His breath smelled of toothpaste, and a sudden flood of tenderness rushed over me at the image of him brushing his teeth because I was coming over. In case we might kiss. And his lips parted slightly and I tried to relax my mouth, my jaw for a kiss as tender as the caresses he’d given me that first night. “If you want me to.” Not a kiss. His lips had parted for those words. “Do you want me to?”
I wanted it so badly. It was why I’d come. But it was so hard to say it. “Yes.”
He leaned in a little closer, so close that I felt the heat of him up the length of my body, felt his breath warm on my lips, so close that when he shifted his weight his knee brushed against my leg, and as I felt my blood accelerate, pumping my panic from my chest into my legs and arms and hands until I was trembling, and I noticed his breathing was like mine—strange and constricted and too fast—he touched my wrist again, the way he’d touched it that first night, made me move my arm, my hand again as if it were me and not him directing that movement, and he pressed my palm over the warm, rigid bulge of his hard cock sheathed under the fabric of his jeans. “You’re sure you want me to kiss you?”
I was almost in tears because I was sure I’d already used up all the generous patience possible, but it seemed better to say it sooner than later. “I’m not sure I’m ready.”
Not the look of disappointment or irritation I was expecting. Just a hint of a grin. “Not ready for what?”
“That isn’t what I asked you. I asked if you want me to kiss you. This isn’t a bait and switch.”
“Yes. Yes, I want you to.”
It seemed strange to me, but wonderful that he was trembling too. He slid one hand against my waist until it curved against the small of my back, warm, almost hovering he touch was so light, and he leaned in so that our chests barely pressed together, and his lips brushed against mine, not even really a kiss for those first seconds, my want expanding and submerging me so that when he finally did really kiss me, soft lips pressing against mine, his tongue seeking mine, I groaned and the faint warmth of his hand on the small of my back drew me closer, pressed me more firmly to him, his other hand curving around the base of my neck, his kiss gentle but desperate, ravenous. Never in my life have I felt so possessed, so completely taken in a kiss.
When we stopped, we were both panting. He backed away to look at me—my face, the bulge sticking up under my slacks—and without realizing what I was doing I’d curved my hands behind his triceps, desperate not to let him slip away from me, not even far enough that I couldn’t feel his body’s heat against my belly and chest.
“Come upstairs with me.” More like a directive than an invitation. Fear and arousal driving a violent surge of blood through my whole body with every thumping heartbeat, I followed him to the far corner of the loft and up the steep, precarious stairs that were hardly more than a ladder, a staircase usually hidden behind a teak screen he kept locked in place to bar the hordes from entering his sanctuary during the weekend events, so that I’d never seen the stairs, much less the sleeping area they led to. It was like we’d gone to a different house. As open and spare as the rest of the loft was, the upstairs area, which was suspended above maybe a quarter of the lower loft but which was larger than my entire apartment—was warm, cozy, intimate, mostly in golds with accents of deep brownish reds, all the wood teak, nothing ornate, all in gentle slopes and curves, rounded corners, avoiding even a single hard angle.
Raising his hands to my hair and giving me a caress that felt both tender and possessive, demanding, Dario said, “I prefer to be with you up here. Downstairs, it’s for everyone. Up here, it’s just for us.”
He kissed me again. It was like drowning, that kiss the medium in which my body, my soul was suspended, that kiss touching every cell of my skin, every hair follicle on my body, filling my mouth, my throat, my lungs until I couldn’t breathe, until my consciousness started to dim and blur in dizzy euphoria.
Then his mouth was by my ear and in that intimate voice that made me feel like I was being touched, he said, “I want to undress you.”
You can pre-order Dangerously Happy at a 40% discount through the end of May at Smashwords with coupon code TY56L. The full book will be available to read on June 1st.