A Serpentine Series Book
The star of the University of Virginia theater department, Aidan Emery is lusted after and admired for living out and proud. He uses his talent and good looks to his advantage and never sleeps with the same guy twice. But his glamorous patina has been carefully honed to hide the pain he carries inside.
Aidan wasn't always such a player. He starts college naively romantic, hungry for the attention he can’t get from his workaholic father and mentally ill mother. Unfortunately, that leaves him ripe pickings for predatory professor Rodney Montgomery. Rodney’s flattering regard seduces Aidan into a dysfunctional relationship that destroys his innocence.
Life looks up for Aidan when he finally breaks free of Rodney’s pull and moves to New York City to make it as an actor. Meeting sweet fellow actor Patrick Jaymes seems like the start of a fairy tale. But before Aidan can rebuild his life into happily ever after, family secrets rip him wide open, leaving him easy prey when Rodney decides he’s not willing to let Aidan go.
- 2 To Be Read lists
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Bisexual, Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 3 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Age Difference, Alpha Character, Bad Breakup, Cheating, Coming of Age, Coming Out / Closeted, Cultural Differences, First Time, Forbidden Love, Friends to Lovers, Hurt / Comfort, Interracial Relationship, Love Triangle, May/December, Menage, Mind Games, Star-Crossed Lovers
Word Count: 149,000
Setting: USA: Charlottesville, Va; New York City, NY
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
EVERY GOOD story begins with a journey. Mine started on a June day in 2011 as the Amtrak train pulled out of Union Station in Washington, DC. Lee and I were bound for New York City, ready to dazzle ’em all with our acting and singing chops. Look out, Broadway, here come Aidan Emery and Lee Dunlap, the stars of the U.Va. drama department! Jazz hands!
I was leaving my family home—which I’d recently been kicked out of by my father. I was also leaving behind a long-term, toxic relationship. Yes! I felt pretty fucking victorious sitting on that train, talking and laughing with Lee. I’d done it! Left my past behind! Right? I was sure, with all the surety of a twenty-one-year-old, that my dragons had been slain and New York City was where the gold awaited.READ MORE
Not so fast there, bucko, I want to tell myself now. You’ll get to the gold, but you have many more hard roads to travel before you arrive. Oh, but don’t despair—there is a Prince Charming at the end of it all.
Because this is the story of my journey, I’m going to tell it in four acts and an epilogue. I’m an actor, so humor me. Four acts? you ask. Isn’t that kind of a long play? What can I tell you? The Aidan Emery story cannot be contained in a mere three acts!
“And his ego can’t be contained either,” whispers Luke from the wings. Shut up, Luke, you don’t even appear until well into Act Two.
Okay, enough of this. I’m aware I’ve left my twenty-one-year-old self on that train to New York City, glowing with anticipation and blissfully ignorant of the dragons that await. We’ll pick back up with him in Act Three.
And now, on with the show.
ACT ONE: THE EARLY YEARS
The Early Years, Scene One
The early years of my life comprise a short act. I grew up in McLean, Virginia, the only child of Theodore and Cecilia Emery. My father is a United States congressman for the state of Virginia. When I was little, he was viewed as possible US Senate material. He was also a philanderer… do people use that word anymore? Fuck it, that’s what he was. He had affairs—a regular John Edwards, my dad was, while my parents were still married. Handsome, charismatic, charming, and a bastard. Despite being an unfaithful husband, Father pretended to uphold all the bullshit “family values” espoused by the Republican party, attending the Presbyterian church with Mother every Sunday so the world would know what good Christians they were. He was always busy and wasn’t much involved with me, beyond correcting my outward appearance and teaching me proper behavior as befitted a congressman’s son.
My mother, Cecilia, is five years younger than Father. I can see why she captivated him at first: she’s beautiful, sensitive, and an artist. She also loves music and the theater.
When I was little, Mother created a magical world of the imagination for me and her to dwell in. We’d snuggle on the settee in her special room she called her studio and she’d read to me as I sat in her arms and breathed in her lilac scent. She painted pictures to illustrate the stories she’d make up to tell me at bedtime. Sometimes she’d play the grand piano while I stretched out on the rug and listened.
She’d always been a loving mom; I felt safe sharing her special world with her in the studio. But Mother suffered from severe clinical depression and was hospitalized a number of times during my childhood. When her illness would overtake her, she’d lie in bed in a dark room for weeks, and Father would hire a babysitter to take care of me. I hated it. I missed my mom, and had no father to speak of because he was off being an important congressman.
I was a lonely child. Although I got along well with the kids in school, a sick mother and a workaholic father meant no one was available to drive me to play dates. Video games, music, books, and movies became my companions. I had all the gadgets money could buy. I just didn’t have anyone to share them with.
Theater saved me. When I was nine, Mother enrolled me in a drama class at the local community center, and I fell in love. I loved the chance to become someone else, and the magic of bringing stories to life. I started singing for musicals and was discovered to have a remarkable singing voice, so Mother got me vocal lessons as well.
Acting and singing were my ways to shine. Performing in plays got me positive attention and praise from adults when none was forthcoming from Father, and Mother was often too sick to attend to me. I think Father realized pretty early on I wasn’t going to be following him into politics. He wasn’t happy with my theater passion. He’d see me coming back from a production with my makeup still on, get this pained expression on his face, and look at Mother as if to say, “This is all your fault. You turned him into this!”
I survived middle school. Barely. My only friends were kids I knew through the community theater, and even those friendships only went so far. I couldn’t invite them home in case Mother was having a bad day, and I had to decline invitations to birthday parties or hanging out at another kid’s house because I never knew if I’d be able to get there.
My hormones had woken up and informed me I was attracted to boys, and that deepened my feelings of isolation. I was a pudgy kid and already felt like a loser, and now I lived in mortal fear of getting a hard-on in the locker room. Also, Father had ranted enough about the “sin of homosexuality” that I knew it was something I could never be open about at home. I began to be bullied by a group of boys who had somehow sniffed out my “otherness,” although they never outright accused me of being gay. I kept a poster of George Michael up in my room; he was one of the few out gay entertainers at the time, along with being an amazing singer. I hoped I’d be as brave as him one day.
High school was better. I was still an ugly duckling, overweight and not grown into my full height. But I wasn’t a loner or a freak. Ms. Parigini, the high school drama teacher, discovered me and my voice when I was a freshman and put me into the plays right away. My talent earned me some respect, and the bullies from middle school moved on to other targets.
By sophomore year, I was able to mask my natural shyness with a bastardized version of Father’s glad-handing. I acted friendly and interested in people, always ready with a joke or a song to make the kids laugh. As high school went on, I became the star of the drama department, had tons of acquaintances, and lots of friends on Facebook. I just had no one I considered a close friend. As for boyfriends? Not even close. I ended my illustrious high school career a virgin. I’d never even been kissed.
I didn’t tell anyone in high school that I was gay, even though there were some LGBT students who were open about it, and the school had a Gay-Straight Alliance. But because Father was a Republican congressman, I kept my being gay a secret. I didn’t worry about it affecting my career choice—I wanted more than anything to be an actor when I grew up, and Broadway and Hollywood were full of gays, even though most of them were in the closet. When, in the November of my senior year, Neil Patrick Harris came out publicly in People magazine, I sat on my bed and read the article over and over, thinking, If he can do it, maybe so can I.
Around the time I graduated, I experienced a growth spurt and became the six foot one I am now. I’d started running that spring, discovering I loved the feeling the endorphins gave me, and my almost-daily jogs melted away the extra weight I’d been carrying. Girls and guys alike started checking me out, something that had never happened before. I guess I should describe myself: along with being tall and broad-shouldered, I have green eyes and blond hair. I know I’m handsome. But even now, I can feel like that geeky high school kid when things aren’t going as I want them to.
I remember being miserable at the party my parents hosted after my high school graduation. My father stood in our living room, talking to his usual collection of VIPs, while I hung out with a couple of fellow students who weren’t even friends of mine. They were there because their parents had some connection to Father. My mother and grandparents had come to my graduation, but Father had missed it due to some pressing congressional business. He didn’t get to see me receive my diploma, but he made the party. Of course he did—he never missed an opportunity to “network.”
My grades were good enough that I was accepted to a number of colleges. Although my mother had wanted me to attend one close to home, I decided to go to the University of Virginia, two hours down the road. I was looking forward to getting there and being initiated into college life. But before that, I had another important initiation: my first time having sex other than with my own hand.
The Early Years, Scene Two
MY FIRST sexual experience was with a guy named Jarrod, who I met at summer theater camp. Jarrod was a year older and a veteran of this camp. He sidled up to me the first night as we were waiting for the orientation talk.
“Hey, good looking,” he said, open admiration in his eyes as he cruised me from head to foot.
“Hey, yourself,” I replied with what I hoped was a charming grin. Jarrod was short and slight, with pretty features and a sprightly manner. He wasn’t exactly my type, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.
During the orientation meeting, he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Wanna meet me after?”
“Um.” [I wasn’t my most eloquent at seventeen.]
“Behind the dining hall?” he persisted.
“What for?” He raised his eyebrow, and I felt myself blush. Cursing myself, I pasted on a would-be sultry smile. “Sure, I can meet you.”
I spent the rest of the meeting hearing nothing, in a panic because, as much as I wanted sex, I didn’t feel ready. I didn’t know what to do! What if I blew it?
After the meeting, Jarrod drew me along a wooded path to a rustic shelter, saying, “Everyone uses this place to hook up.”
I nodded, trying not to appear as freaked out as I felt. It wasn’t the gay thing—I’d known I was gay at twelve, and had beaten off to gay porn ever since getting my own computer in middle school. But being geeky looking all through high school had kept my sex fantasies from becoming a reality. And now that it was about to happen, I felt so unprepared. I hated feeling unprepared for any role I was about to play.
Jarrod led me into the small lean-to and dropped to his knees in front of me on the musty floor. He unzipped my shorts, pulled them down, and got a hand on my cock that was already straining against the front of my briefs. “So freaking hot,” he whispered. “You’re so big.”
My dick was bigger than most—I had already ascertained this fact through furtive comparison in the high school locker room. I hadn’t known how to feel about that, sure it was one more weird thing about me, but Jarrod seemed delighted at its size. He stroked it with a worshipful expression, and I bit back a moan, afraid I was going to come just from his hand touching me through my briefs.
Jarrod pulled down my underwear and nosed at my naked cock. When he sucked the head into his mouth, it felt so awesome I had a hard time staying on my feet, and my hands flailed so much I tried to stick them into my nonexistent pockets. I was thankful when Jarrod grabbed them and placed them on his head. I held on tight, my eyes squeezed shut, as he moved his mouth down my shaft.
When my orgasm hit, I gasped out Jarrod’s name and tried to move, but he had my hips in a firm grasp. So I came into his mouth, amazed at what was happening. The whole thing lasted maybe three minutes. Five, if I’m being generous.
I opened my eyes, still breathing hard and trying to calm down, and noticed Jarrod shoving his hand down his pants and jerking himself off. After a flurry of movement, he gasped and groaned, and as I watched in fascination, my hands still on his head, his mouth fell slack and he leaned his head on my knee.
I wasn’t sure what to say or do. My dick was hanging out, cooling in the nighttime air. Wondering what the protocol was for post-hookups—proper protocol having been drummed into me from an early age by Father—I tentatively stroked his hair, then let my hands fall to my sides. Jarrod turned his face and grinned at me. Relieved, I smiled back.
“Nice.” Jarrod stood and helped me pull up my shorts—his having never come off—then checked his phone. “Crap, we gotta get to the cabins. Lights out is in ten minutes.”
I followed him out of the lean-to. It was only later that I realized I’d received my first blow job and still had never been kissed.
The rest of that summer, I hooked up with Jarrod and a handful of other guys at camp. It seemed to be a common thing, and I welcomed the chance to get more experience. I learned how to give a blow job and loved every minute of that. By the end of the summer, I had done everything, including rimming and fingering, but not anal. I didn’t want to have my first time being fucked—or fucking someone, if there was any way I could get my huge dick in, a logistical feat I was doubtful of—on the dirty floor of the camp lean-to.
At the end of camp, Jarrod invited me to come to a friend’s house for a few days. The guy’s parents were out of town. My parents wouldn’t notice if I was a few days later coming home—well, Mother actually would, so I called her to say I’d been invited to stay with friends, and she was pleased for me. In the guy’s spare bedroom, Jarrod fucked me and showed me how to fuck him. Even with all his experience, it was a big deal to get him open enough for my cock. He loved it, though. I liked it too.
[Sex comes into this story quite a bit, and what I found out that summer was that I like sex. A lot. That hasn’t changed for me. Sex can be wonderful, especially when it’s with the right person. And it’s pretty damn fun even with the wrong ones!
Jarrod was a great first because he had zero hang-ups or shame. He wasn’t emotional about it or expecting anything from me. Having sex with Jarrod allowed me to experience everything, find out what I liked, and do it without worrying about the consequences.]
So I drove into Charlottesville at the end of that August to start my first year at U.Va. with a summer of new sexual experiences under my belt and feeling like quite the experienced guy. I was soon to learn I had only scratched the surface.COLLAPSE
I was hooked from the first sentences. Aidan's Journey is funny and sweet and captivating. And long. Epically long. A real commitment. But worth it.
I got swept away by Aidan's college years, the story of a hot young stud (but sympathetic! The best kind!) sucked into an affair with his college professor, a hot sexy Brit (the worst kind!).
Aidan's journey becomes more compelling as it goes through each epoch, as I grow to love and understand each character. I became more than hooked; I became breathless.
I chose this story initially because it was about actors, and it does take a while to give the actor's perspective, but it finally arrives. New York and its Off-Off-Broadway flair and tortured souls and real truths all comes out.
Aidan's Journey was a fun, energetic joy that makes me believe the genre is capable of great things.
Aidan's Journey was a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist.