When Hollywood theatrical agent Daren Marlowe celebrates his thirtieth birthday with friends, he’s more than surprised when his best friend gives him a CD that is a revamp of the old 80s’ mixed tape. He’s even more surprised when he realizes it’s a re-gifted mixed tape. The first song on the CD is the syrupy Kool and the Gang classic, “Cherish.” When Daren takes it home, he has no plans to look at the CD again, let alone play it, but his new lover, Rafael, puts it on the sound system.
Daren gets to Cherish the love over and over and over again because the darned thing is stuck. Forced to close off the sound system entirely, he frets over being held hostage by the song and he’s not wrong. In a bizarre set of circumstances, Richard is assaulted and almost dies. Will he survive? Can Daren actually forge a viable relationship with the sexy and hypnotic Rafael—for as long as they both shall live—in a town where the men don’t always cherish their men?
Heat Level: 3
Length: Novella (29k words)
Read a short excerpt...
...Richard’s new obsession these days was the hook-up site, Jack’d. To hear him tell it, Grindr was passé. I checked out his new rent boy choices. Both men were cute, but stupid-looking. One in particular had really mastered the condom stuffed with walnut appearance. He was posing so hard he appeared to be possibly constipated.
“Which one do you like?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Same horse, different jockey.”
Rafael returned but was giddy with excitement that his offer had been accepted for the unfashionably located warehouse.
We all congratulated him. “Daren Marlow, you bring me good luck.” He kissed me and ordered a fresh round of drinks for everyone.
Richard handed me his birthday gift. It looked like a CD. He knew my musical tastes so I was excited until I opened it and saw that he’d written Mixed Tape across the CD.
Mixed Tape? I hadn’t seen one of those since 1984. Actually, I’d seen one just a few weeks ago to be more precise.
But it couldn’t be…
“Everything old is new again,” Richard said. “These are the hottest gifts you can give somebody.”
I had heard that and had lamented with Nathan that a mixed tape was now presented on a CD since an actual cassette tape was not only strongly out of fashion but most people had nothing on which to play them.
Turning the cover over in my hand, I was prepared to be charmed by my best friend’s choices. And then I saw the first song listed on the back of the jewel case—“Cherish.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t like Kool and the Gang. Well, I almost didn’t not like them, but “Cherish” was one of those songs that stuck itself in one’s brain just by reading the name, let alone actually playing it.
But this was worse than that. This was a re-gifted mixed tape.
Nathan had been given the CD by his ex-girlfriend, a stalky wacko who sent him oddball gifts when they were happily à deux, and even stranger ones after he dumped her. As a matter of fact, she’d made him the very CD I was holding and had sent it to him.
I already knew without looking that the second title was one of my favorite Earth, Wind and Fire songs—“Fantasy.”
Tears pricked my eyes.
I’d counseled Nathan late one night over drinks at the Revolver about how to handle Nina, his ex-girlfriend. We had decided she’d put some effort into compiling this mixed tape CD and therefore he could hang onto it if he liked the songs, or he could simply toss it.
We’d joked about how the character Chandler on the TV series, Friends, had been given a mixed tape by his crazy ex, Janice. He’d palmed it off onto his fiancée, Monica, when he forgot their anniversary. She’d been thrilled at first as they danced to the tape, until Janice’s whiny voice popped up in the middle of the tracks.
Nathan had stopped texting and was staring at me.
He was mortified.
And I knew exactly what had happened now.
He’d given the CD to Richard, probably as a gift when he signed him as a client.
Richard had no idea I knew about the mixed tape and thought it was an appropriate present for me, his best friend.
And he’d given my boss, a woman he didn’t even really like a Kelly bag.
“I think I want a cigarette,” I said...