Out of the Ashes is Cinderella story set in Texas. It’s the story of a boy, Noah, who loses everything, only to find the one person he is willing to risk even more for, Matthew. Here is the moment when they meet…for the second time.
It wasn’t really a bad party.
Yet even so, Matthew couldn’t help but feel disappointed by it.
What else could he feel when everyone seemed to be hooking up but him?
Once he’d left Cal and the girls, Matthew had wandered around as they’d urged, visiting with old friends and neighbors, and meeting new ones. Everyone had assured him what a wonderful time they were having. Booze flowed freely. The music seemed to have magical properties that urged bodies, young and old, into motion. Inviting shadows were everywhere, perfect for sneaking away to steal a kiss or maybe more, and many couples looked to be taking advantage. All in all, the stage was set.
Only Matthew couldn’t find a costar.
And that was so unfair.
It might have been a Halloween party. But he was supposed to be the guest of honor.
Maybe it was the Coronas talking, but that old Leslie Gore song was beginning to echo inside his head.
By the time Dillon had cornered him in the library, dressed as a vampire and flirting as if he believed Matthew might actually be that desperate, Matthew was about to write off the evening entirely and go shoot a solitary game of pool in the billiards room.
Making the excuse of filial duty, he got away from Dillon, intent on making good his escape, when he saw someone he hadn’t noticed before standing in the living room doorway.
He was tall. Really tall. Matthew was six feet, and he’d bet this guy had a couple of inches on him. He was dressed as a member of the military. Matthew thought the uniform might be genuine, rather than a costume. It looked like something from one of the world wars, olive green in color with black trim, and hugged the person wearing it as if envious of his skin. Matthew could understand the impulse.
The guy was hot.
His mystery man had wide shoulders, legs that looked as if they might be part stilts, a trim waist and a high, rounded ass. His hair was long and dark, worn pushed away from his face and held back by a hat that went with the outfit. From where he stood, Matthew really couldn’t see much of the man’s features. In addition to his hat, which rested mid-brow, he wore a mask over his eyes. Only a small number of guests had opted to go that extra step. Matthew wondered why he seemed so determined to conceal his identity. From what Matthew could tell, there wasn’t any reason for the man to be shy.
Determined not to let this one get away—at least not until he’d learned if there might be a spark between them—Matthew worked his way towards him, winding through the throng of guests. The man didn’t seem to sense his approach. He stood framed in the archway, scanning the crowd as if searching for someone. When their eyes finally met, it appeared he’d found what he was looking for. He froze, his mouth falling open. It seemed to Matthew he might even be holding his breath.
Surprised, Matthew couldn’t figure out what might have caused such a reaction. It was almost as if the man were frightened of him.
“Hi,” Matthew said when he came to stand before him. He was younger than Matthew had thought he was at first, but maybe even better looking up close. The man smelled of the outdoors rather than of cologne, of crisp fall air and clean male sweat. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
The man gazed at him a moment longer, saying nothing, before dropping his eyes and clearing his throat. “I…um…no, I guess we haven’t.”
“I’m Matthew,” Matthew said, extending his hand. “I’m the, uh…well, my family actually—we’re the hosts.”
The man looked down at Matthew’s hand for a second before taking it in his. His palm was warm and a little damp, but his grip was strong. “Nice to meet you. I’m N…Noel—I’m Noel.”
“Hi, Noel,” Matthew said, giving his new acquaintance what he knew to be his most winning smile. “Glad you could make it. Can I offer you something to drink?”
Noel hesitated yet again before nodding. “Yeah, that would be great.”
“Well, come on then,” Matthew said, holding out his hand before him as if pointing the way. “Let me show you to the bar. It’s a little easy to get lost in this place, especially on a night like this.”
“I can imagine. You’ve got a great house.”
“Thanks,” Matthew said. “I haven’t really lived here the past few years. I’ve been down in Austin for school. But I like it. It’s still home.”
Together they made their way into the dining room, which was the location of the closest bar. Once there, Matthew turned to his companion and asked, “What’ll you have?”
Noel looked at the array of bottles lined up behind the bartender, squinting as if trying to read the writing on each. “Could I…um…could I get a glass of water?”
Matthew chuckled, thinking at first he had to be joking. “Water? I’m pretty sure we can do better than that.”
Noel turned his way and frowned, appearing flustered or maybe simply confused. “It’s just…I didn’t want to…”
Oh, God, Matthew thought. Maybe there was a reason the guy was drinking water. Like he was someone’s designated driver. Or he had an alcohol problem.
“Hey, man. I’m sorry,” Matthew said, wanting to as quickly and as painlessly as possible extract his foot from his mouth. “I’m not trying to pressure you or anything.”
“Oh, no,” Noel assured him. “You’re not pressuring me.”
“I just thought you might like—”
“If you want water, we can get you water.”
“No. Actually… what are you having?”
“Me?” Matthew said, easing up on his concern. Noel didn’t seem to have taken any offense. Maybe Matthew hadn’t inadvertently coaxed him off the wagon after all. “I’ve been drinking Coronas.”
“Okay,” Noel said. “I’ll have one of those.”
Matthew smiled at him before turning to the bartender. “Make it two.”
After they had their beers in hand, Matthew tapped his against Noel’s. “Happy Halloween.”
“Happy Halloween,” Noel echoed and took a sip, as Matthew did. Almost immediately, he made a face, his nose wrinkling.
“Is it warm?” Matthew asked. His bottle was ice cold. But he knew it could be tricky keeping things chilled at big parties like this. Maybe the bar staff had just restocked.
Noel shook his head, then opened and closed his mouth a few times as if trying to identify a certain flavor on his tongue. “No, no. Just…different.”
“Than what?” Matthew asked in surprise.
“Than…nothing,” Noel said, determinedly taking another sip. “It’s fine. Really. It’s good.”
“Good,” Matthew said, confused by their conversation, but willing to let it go. “Glad you like it.” Noel smiled. They each looked at each other for a moment saying nothing. Then Matthew asked, “Hey, do you want the fifty cent tour?”
Noel looked surprised yet pleased by the offer. “Sure.”
Matthew put his hand on Noel’s back as he led him through the crowd. “You’ve already seen the living room and dining room. That door over there to the right is the library, and to the left there is a hallway that leads to one of the guest suites.”
They made their way around the edge of the dance floor, past the deejay’s booth and towards the back of the house.
“This is our kitchen and the breakfast room and beyond that, down the steps, is the family room.”
Together, they walked over to the wall of windows looking out over the expansive back courtyard, and peered through the panes into the darkness beyond. As it was chilly, not many people were outside, save for a few diehard smokers. Matthew could see through the patio doors the fiery ends of their cigarettes, glowing like lightening bugs in the night.
“My dad’s office is in the back here next to the gym and billiards room,” he said, resuming the tour by leading them through the family room and out the door on the opposite wall. “Upstairs is mostly bedrooms, along with the media room and my mom’s office.”
“This place is huge,” Noel said, seemingly not even trying to disguise his awe. “I can see what you mean about getting lost.”
“It kind of is,” Matthew admitted, feeling sheepish when faced with Noel’s reaction. Most people tried to play it cool when they came to his parents’ place, like all the Texas style size and glamour was expected. Noel didn’t seem to be wired that way; his response was too honest. “My dad helped design the layout when my mom and he had first gotten married. I know they’d planned to have a big family. So I guess he’d wanted to make sure they’d have enough room. But in the end, all they got was me.”
Walking down the hallway together, their shoulders glancing off each other, Noel looked over at Matthew from beneath his lashes and smiled, a pair of dimples carving dents in his cheeks. “That doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.”
Matthew smiled back at him, pleased.
Oh, yeah. Definite sparkage.
I hope you enjoyed this preview for Out of the Ashes. The book will be released on Amazon in August. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, I’ll be happy to let you know when this title–and any future ones–is available. Just leave a comment below with your email addy.
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