Stalwart

by K.L. Noone

Cameras, thunderstorms, and love confessions! And a secret or two ...

Jason Mirelli couldn't be happier. Filming's going well, he loves his role, and he and Colby Kent have unexpectedly fallen for each other on screen and off ... and into bed. Everything seems wonderful, but Jason can't help worrying. This is the role that'll save his career, he's sleeping with his co-star, and Colby needs him to take things slow, but Jason's already head over heels in love. It's getting harder and harder to watch Colby pretend to be ill and in pain, even if it's only in character ... and a single on-set accident might make Jason's worst fears come true.

Colby's happier than he's been in a very long time. He's telling a story that he loves, he's playing a character he's always adored, and he wants to share all of himself with Jason, on camera and off. He knows he's falling in love with Jason, but he also knows it's too fast, and he's been hurt before. Besides, he has one final secret he's been afraid to confess. He wants to trust Jason completely, but before he can, an accident on set might threaten every love story they've been creating.

Excerpt:

"Cut!" Jill said, and the room burst out in applause. "Awesome!" Andy shouted, and Jill threw them a thumbs-up, beaming. "That was great, you two!"

Colby was applauding too, and called over, "Utterly splendid, I've got chills, you're both marvelous!" as his eyes found Jason's. Despite Will's invalid make-up, he looked like he wanted to jump up and run over and throw himself into Jason's arms; he didn't, but it was that kind of look. Absolute delight and pride rocketed down Jason's spine.

"We'll do it again to make sure," Jill said, "and to get a couple more close-up reaction shots, but that felt like it. If there's anything different you want to bring to it, go ahead and experiment. It's all yours."

Jim grinned, right out of character and into cheerfulness. "Shall we go again? You want to threaten me a bit more? Slam hands on the desk and shout?"

"Totally," Jason agreed. "More dramatic. Stephen would get physical if he had to."

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"I'll be more condescending to you, too. Not because of who you are or who you love, but because you've interrupted me and I'm cross about it."

"Works for me."

They reset. The rain hummed, ever-present and contented.

Tomorrow they'd switch locations and do it all again, with different scenes and different dialogue. They'd light up the world, him and Colby and everyone else. This cast, this production, all the love. Jason let himself feel it. Let himself have it.

And tonight he'd have Colby in his bed, bright and curious and submissive and radiantly happy. They might have sex, or not have sex, or whatever Colby felt up to; Jason thought it'd ultimately been a good day, getting past a minor speed-bump or two, but he'd also be happy just to wrap arms around Colby and feel the way they fit together. That hadn't stopped being amazing.

He didn't know how long it would last, whether Colby wanted anything beyond this project and this recapturing of self. But Colby had said it was more than a one-time thing. Had said words about wanting Jason, trusting Jason.

Whatever happened, Jason could only be grateful. He'd been allowed to be here. He'd fallen head over heels in love.

He knew how that felt, now. He knew about the way his heart wanted to soar and to fight anyone who'd ever hurt Colby and to settle down in some quiet London flat near a historic museum if that could ever be something Colby wanted.

He stopped to think that last part again.

He would. He really would.

He liked being close to family -- he loved his family, and he'd miss the hell out of them. Allie's law-school adventures. His mother and grandmother bickering affectionately over updated versions of classic dishes for the restaurant. His father, long recovered from that accident and training other drivers, but that didn't mean other practice-track collisions didn't happen, and Jason had always wanted to be nearby, not just for that but for shared film-set stories and smudges of engine-grease and the rumble of powerful machines and the Mirelli family legacy, stunts and cars and bikes and explosions, making movie magic happen behind the scenes, decade after decade.

But he loved Colby Kent. And Colby liked -- needed -- the quiet, when possible, in between the demands of their profession. No crowds. Out-of-the-way quirky museums and leather-scented bookshops and testing recipes at home. Colby's favorite city was London. Which was pretty damn far from Hollywood, as far as miles.

The vision of it kicked him in the gut anyway.

He also liked bookshops and fantasy and quests. He was getting to appreciate history and romance novels. He could ship his bike over. He could call his family every week and visit every time he or Colby had to come out to California. He could find a local gym and let Colby teach him to like swimming and wake up with those blue eyes beside him, Colby tucked into the circle of his body and kept warm.

His sister would explode with glee. His family would understand. Wouldn't they?

If Colby wanted more -- more than the next few weeks --

He was speculating. Getting too far ahead. Impractical. Not grounded. Everything he'd learned the hard way not to do.

But he couldn't not.

He wondered what Colby and Jillian had disagreed over. Not an argument, but something Jill thought he was wrong about, Colby had said. That seemed unusual; they tended to think alike. And Colby himself had said he wasn't sure, needed a road-map, space to sort something out.

But it couldn't be that important; it couldn't be about Jason himself, or about them together. Colby would tell him if so, right? They'd laid themselves bare enough for that. He trusted that.

So he wouldn't ask. No pressure. Giving those blue eyes that space.

He waved at Colby. Colby waved back, and then picked up his coffee-cup from the arm of the chair. Plus something else. This turned out to be coffee creamer. Poured deliberately, slow and white, into the cup. Looking right at Jason.

Oh, Jason thought, so we're having fun tonight, you know I'd never hurt you and you're asking for me to see how many times I can make you scream my name; and he flexed muscles on purpose, noticeable beneath Stephen's coat, making cloth ripple and bulge.

Colby just about dropped the coffee.

Jason grinned, and went back to his opening mark. He knew Colby would be watching. All the anticipation danced like the rain.

Good weather, he thought. The best.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

K.L. Noone employs her academic research for writing romance, frequently LGBTQIA, often paranormal, fantasy, or historical. Her full-length romance novels include the Character Bleed trilogy (Seaworthy, Stalwart, Steadfast), Cadence and the Pearl, and A Demon for Midwinter, available from JMS Books, and A Prophecy for Two, available from Inkshares, and she’s also the author of multiple romance short stories with JMS Books, and previously with Less Than Three Press, Circlet Press, and Ellora's Cave. Her non-romance fantasy fiction has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress and the magazine Aoife's Kiss.

With the Professor Hat on, she’s published scholarly work on romance, fantasy, and folklore, including a book on Welsh mythology in popular culture and a book on ethics in Terry Pratchett’s fantasy. She is happily bisexual, married to the marvelous Awesome Husband, and currently owned by a long-legged black cat named Merlyn.


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