We’re so pleased to have author Sydney Blackburn joining us today on the virtual tour for her new novella, The Lure of Port Stephen, from NineStar Press. We’ve got a fun little ficlet to share, and there’s also a giveaway, so be sure to check out the entry details below.
Silly Questions with Robbie and Raj
Once upon a warm summer’s night, Robbie and Raj sat by the campfire, drinking cold beer and asking each other silly questions.
“So,” Raj asked, “What band or type of music are you most embarrassed to admit liking?”
Robbie looked at the ground, the shadows of the fire hiding his face. “Um… Nickelback.”
Defiantly Robbie jutted his chin. “You, same question.”
Raj’s mouth tightened before he confessed, “Country.”
“What?! You can’t razz me about Nickelback after confessing that! Any other unusual musical tastes I should know about?”
Grinning, Raj added, “I watch Kpop videos on YouTube, but I’m not sure if I like the music, or just the cute guys.”
Robbie cracked up laughing. “I can’t even tell if you’re serious. Okay, I got one–what kind of guy would you never date? Apart from closeted?”
Raj rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. “One who, after asking where I’m from, says, ‘No, where are you FROM from?” He turned his head to the side and held up his hand in a stop signal. “Just nope. You?”
“Up to a minute ago, it was a guy who likes country music.” Robbie’s dead-pan delivery rapidly dissolved into laughter.
“No, seriously. I totally have to rethink that,” Robbie replied with a grin. “Who’s your celebrity free pass?”
Raj didn’t answer right away, his brows creased while he thought. Finally he said, “Hale Appleman or Benedict Cumberbatch.”
Robbie chuckled. “Are either of them gay?”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s not like I’ll ever meet either one of them anyway. It’s just a fantasy, right? So who would your freebie be?”
“Well, if it’s just a fantasy and anyone goes…that guy that plays Robb Stark.”
“Not one of the Hemsworth boys?” Raj teased.
“Ugh, no blonds.” Robbie leaned forward to rest a hand on Raj’s knee. “I prefer dark-haired men with flashing brown eyes.”
Raj laughed and drained his beer. “You want another?”
When Raj returned, Robbie was swiping his phone. He looked up as Raj handed him a brown bottle, drops of condensation already forming. “Thanks. Okay, here’s a good question–if you were a superhero, what would your superhero powers be?”
Raj choked on a laugh. “Did you just Google quizzes?”
“Maybe,” Robbie replied defensively. “Some of these questions are really good.”
“Your superpower would be catching fish. C’mon, where are these good questions? And don’t ask me what my favourite anything is, because I hate those questions. I don’t have one favourite anything.”
“Really?” Robbie asked, all sly. “You have more than one favourite boyfriend?”
Raj tried and failed to look stern as he threatened, “I will toss you overboard tomorrow when we’re fishing.”
“Hmm.” Robbie scrolled the information on his phone. “Favourite–no. What kind of–no. I know that one already.” He looked up. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Not even a little?”
“I’m painfully empirical. I once considered being a ghost hunter just to debunk that kind of thing.”
“Wow. Do you believe in anything magical or supernatural?”
Raj put down his beer and leaned forward, arms resting on his knees. “I went through this period when I was teenager when I was very cynical about everything and the world is a horrible place–you know it?”
“I looked up a lot of this skepticism stuff and so forth and it made a dark kind of sense to me. But as I got older, I realized that logical explanations don’t detract from concepts like beauty. Don’t take away from art. Don’t minimize love. I mean, the world is already so strange with the stuff we can prove.” He sat back. “That’s why I follow that science page on Facebook.”
“Yeah, I saw that.” Robbie’s voice was thoughtful. Then he grinned. “And I follow Ladybeard.”
“Well, who doesn’t?” Raj grinned back. “What kinds of things do you believe in?”
“I don’t really know. I mean, most of the time I don’t think about it at all, but now that we’re talking about it, I guess I feel it’s good to keep an open mind. Like, I believe in ghosts. I’ve never had any ghostly encounters, or anything, though.”
Raj smirked. “Are you sure? Maybe it was ghosts convinced you to like Nickelback.”
Robbie pushed to his feet and straddled Raj’s legs. “Lay off Nickelback or I’ll have to tickle you or something.”
Raj looked up, his expression hidden by the darkness. “I vote for ‘or something.’”
About the Book
Title: The Lure of Port Stephen
Author: Sydney Blackburn
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: May 22, 2017
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Genre: Contemporary, sweet, blue collar, class difference, interracial, camping, fishing, coming out, Lake Erie, Canada
Blurb: Robbie Wales is young and starting a new job in a new town, on his own. Coming from a split family, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents and came out as a teen without a lot of fuss, but his father, whom he only saw infrequently, has never known. As an adult, he’s found he’s got a lot in common with his father, and they’re finally getting to know each other. He fears coming out to his father may jeopardize that.
Then he meets Raj Williams, the attractive man in the trailer next to his father’s in a seasonal RV park. Raj is handsome, sophisticated, yet loves to fish and watch silly Disney movies.
Raj finds Robbie equally interesting. But Robbie’s still in the closet, at least in Port Stephen, and Raj’s ex used that as an excuse to treat him as nothing more than a friend with benefits. He’s not interested in a repeat experience.
Robbie finally finds the courage to come out to his father, but was it all just for a summer fling?
Robbie Wales rented a car Saturday morning to go down to his father’s trailer in Port Stephen. Alone—because he’d just moved to St. Albans and hadn’t had the opportunity to meet someone. Like Dad and Wanda had been nagging him about.
It would help if he could actually tell them the someone he hoped to meet was a guy. His mother knew, of course. But his parents had split when he was a baby, and he hadn’t spent more than a couple weeks a year with his father until he’d moved to Woodstock for his apprenticeship training. He’d never had a boyfriend serious enough to mention. Coming out seemed too important not to do in person, but the right time never seemed to come up.
He had to come out to them soon—he was twenty-two, and the more time he spent with them, the more obvious it would be—but he was worried. What if his father rejected him just when they were finally having a real relationship? But—new job, new apartment, new city—it was time.
St. Albans was only a twenty-minute drive away from the port. He could, in theory, hang out and fish during the day and go back to town at night. It wasn’t that he didn’t like sitting around their firepit, but listening to a bunch of people his parents’ age or older wasn’t his idea of a fun time. They wouldn’t miss him.
He pulled in beside the end of his parents’ trailer, leaving room for other vehicles in case the people in the small Prowler next door had friends coming up for the weekend too. Robbie grabbed his duffel and used the keys his father had given him last year to let himself in. The water and electric were already on, and the fridge was humming softly.
He dropped the duffel and went out to retrieve the case of beer he’d brought. Hard liquor would take up less fridge space, he mused. Too bad it made him stupid. He gave the neighbouring trailer a sidelong glance. Small propane grill, decorative urns spilling jewel-tone flowers, sun shelter, and a couple of fishing rods. Retired couple, he decided. Flowers had to be a woman’s touch.
Movement on one of the boats caught his eye, and he turned just in time to see a man—literally tall, dark, and handsome—strip his T-shirt off. There was nothing erotic in the motion—guy probably didn’t even know he was being watched—but Robbie’s mouth watered all the same at the unexpected vision.
He was lean, deeply tanned, and wearing shorts that were short enough to make Robbie wish they were even shorter. Nice legs. Nice everything.
As if sensing Robbie’s stare, the guy turned his head. Robbie blushed, glad he was too far away for it to be seen, and hurried to bring in the beer. That was a sight he’d never seen here before. Was he the son of the couple in the trailer?
One way to find out. Randomly chatting to strangers was a thing here, giving Robbie an excuse. He stuck six beers in the fridge and took two of his father’s, already cold, and hastily checked his look in the mirror. His sandy-brown hair was tousled from the drive, but there were no stains on his tank or rainbow-coloured board shorts. Good. Normal. He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes and almost forgot the beer on his way out the door.
Walking along the waterfront, he tried to appear nonchalant, though he’d never been 100 percent certain of what that meant. As he strode out onto the dock, the guy raised his head. He looked even better up close. His hair was thick, dark, begging to be ruffled… Try not to drool, Rob. He didn’t have the words to describe the guy’s mouth—full lips he’d love to kiss, a pinkish-brown colour a little lighter than his nipples. Dark hair scattered across a gorgeous dark tan. Robbie licked his lips before he realized what he was doing.
Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome’s kissable lips pulled up into a smile, and long fingers with very pale fingernails shoved the sunglasses up over his hair. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Robbie handed him a beer. “You looked thirsty. Boat trouble?” he added quickly, squatting down to eye level. Tall, Dark, and Handsome had eyelashes like a woman’s—long, feathery, soft. And his eyes were amber, a little darker than the beer he’d accepted from Robbie.
“Thanks.” He pushed a hand behind his ear, and Robbie’s tongue slipped out to swipe his lower lip again.
The handsome stranger twisted the cap off the beer and tipped the bottle to his mouth, his long throat working as he swallowed once, twice.
Robbie let his gaze slide down the deeply tanned bare chest in front of him. Gay men, in his admittedly limited experience, tended to wax their chests. Trying to match the guys on billboards and magazines, he supposed. Handsome here had a sparse triangle of dark hair from below his collarbone across pecs with more definition than he’d initially thought. Gravity pulled a trickle of sweat down the narrow bit of hair in the center of his torso, one that disappeared… Robbie forced himself to not stare as if the guy was the first steak dinner he’d seen after months of bread and water.
Tall, Dark, and Handsome was glaring at the cables he’d uncovered that led to his motor. “It pulls to the left.”
pulled his shades down, hiding his eyes. “You know much about boats? You’d think I’d learn, owning one, but goddammit, I had it in for a thorough check in St. Albans before I put it in the water.”
“I know a little more about outboards than inboards,” Robbie said truthfully, “but I’d be happy to take a look.”
TDH waved vaguely toward the open panel. “Sure. Please.”
Robbie’s heart tripped a little at getting so close to his new fantasy man, and he nearly lost his balance getting into the boat—to his embarrassment. TDH’s steadying hand was hot and dry, and Robbie nearly jumped as his cock twitched.
“Fuck,” he said, before he could stop himself. His voice was hoarse, but he hoped TDH would think he was cursing his clumsiness and not his riotous imagination.
The smile on his face seemed sly and suggestive to Robbie, but he figured that was wishful thinking on his part. He smiled back and took a swig of his beer. Down, boy, he told his overeager cock. He set his bottle in a holder and turned around, kneeling to examine the innards exposed.
“Huh. Interesting,” he said, having no idea what he was looking for.
“Isn’t it, though.”
His voice was like a caress. You’re imagining things, Robert Eliot Wales. He leaned back to sit on his ass and reached up for his beer. He froze momentarily as TDH sat on one of the pedestal seats. He could almost—but not quite—see up the leg of his shorts. Stop looking.
He forced himself to raise his gaze all the way to the other man’s face. “Tell me exactly what it’s doing?”
“When I put it under full throttle, it pulls to the left. I don’t notice it on the creek, but out on the lake this morning, it pulled so hard it almost yanked the wheel out of my hands.” He ran a hand through his hair again.
Robbie knew he was staring, but he hoped it wasn’t too obvious behind his shades.
“First time I’ve been scared on the water.”
“Sounds like your trim is out of whack. Maybe you bumped something in the creek?”
“Maybe,” he said. “It seems rather shallow this year. So I have to take it out of the water?”
“Yeah, I think so. When my dad gets here, he’ll take a look. He knows a lot more…” Geez, he sounded like a teenager. “Robbie Wales,” he said, thrusting out a hand, more dirty now than it had been twenty minutes ago.
“Raj Williams,” he said, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet.
Raj. That explained the great tan. Even if he still had tan lines, his bare ass was probably a gorgeous honey gold…. He shook his head. “That’s my dad’s trailer.” Robbie jerked his head. “The Golden Falcon there.”
TDH—Raj—laughed. “Tell me that’s not your dad’s name.”
“Wayne and Wanda Wales of Woodstock.” He snickered. “Say it ain’t so.”
Robbie chuckled at the awful alliteration. “It ain’t so,” he reassured him. “Wales is my mother’s name. Dad’s is Richardson. And Wanda kept her own name, Nichols. I take it you’ve met.”
“Neighbours. Your dad is very…sociable.”
“They say in Woodstock, if you don’t know Wayne Richardson, it’s not Wayne Richardson’s fault.”
“I can believe that.”
Neighbours. So… “Which trailer’s yours?”
“This one,” he said with a pleased nod toward the Prowler. “My company started a work-from-home initiative, and I talked them into paying for my Internet to work from here, instead.”
Ah. Straight and married then. Robbie nodded, trying not to show his disappointment. “Where is home when it’s not Port Stephen?”
Robbie felt his eyes widen. “My god, you must feel like you’re in redneck country.”
Raj laughed again, a warm, rich sound that Robbie liked very much. “Kind of,” he said. “Let’s go sit in the shade. My deck’s a little iffy; carpentry isn’t my forte. Along with boat mechanics,” he added ruefully. “I can refresh your beer.”
Eh, he could still fantasize, as long as he didn’t have to watch TDH kissing his no-doubt-pretty wife. “Sure. Thanks.”
The deck, which looked like freight pallets bound together, had an outdoor rug on it and two director-style chairs. Solar LED lights were strung across the canopy. The flowers in each corner were bright primary colours, so intense they almost seemed fake. Nestled against the trailer was an electric cooler. Robbie watched those shorts get a little shorter and tighter as Raj leaned over to grab two cold bottles. To his horror, a whimper came out of his throat before he could stop it.
He cleared his throat and spun to examine one of the flowerpots. “Nice flowers.”
“Thanks. My apartment is tiny without much in the way of a balcony. But I’ve always admired those perfectly landscaped little houses on the magazine covers. Clearly, I’m not a landscaper or a designer either, but it makes me happy—those ridiculously bright flowers.”
“Oh. So you’re not married?”
Raj smiled at him, an expression that seemed full of hidden meaning. “Haven’t met the right person yet. And you? Will you be bringing someone special down to share romantic evenings on the beach?”
Robbie blushed. “No.” He’d never put Port Stephen and romantic together in his head. “So, why here?”
“The fishing. And I can have this place for five months for the same price a month’s rent would cost me in Toronto.”
Robbie opened his mouth to ask another question but frowned. “You’re not paying rent in Toronto? Are you moving here, like, permanently?”
“Hell, no. Can you imagine going all the way to Bayham just for groceries every week in the winter? Do they even have a bar that doesn’t serve a Sunday brunch?” Raj laughed.
Robbie hadn’t realized before now sound could be a thing one wanted to roll in—or lick up.
“Don’t think so,” he managed to say.
“I sublet my apartment for the season, so until October first, it’s not actually mine. I still have a place to live at the end of the season but don’t have to pay the rent. I love it here”—he gestured toward his boat, or perhaps just the water in general—“but it would be nice to meet some people under forty and over twenty.”
Robbie opened his mouth to invite Raj along with him to St. Albans some night. “You met me.” He hadn’t meant to say that, but for some reason the idea of Raj meeting someone other than him made his stomach twist.
Raj smiled. “True…”
About the Author
Sydney Blackburn is a binary star system. Always a voracious reader, she began to write when she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read. She likes candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach… Oh wait, wrong profile. She’s a snarky introvert and admits to having a past full of casual sex and dubious hookups, which she uses for her stories.
She likes word play and puns and science-y things. And green curry.
Her dislikes include talking on the phone, people trying to talk to her before she’s had coffee, and filling out the “about me” fields in social media.
Besides writing, she also designs book covers for poor people.
Follow the Tour
5/22 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
5/22 – The Novel Approach
5/23 – Erotica For All
5/23 – Out Of My Head
5/24 – Happily Ever Chapter
5/24 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog
5/25 – Stories That Make You Smile
5/25 – Sharing Links and Wisdom
5/25 – Bayou Book Junkie
5/26 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews
5/26 – Divine Magazine
5/26 – Love Bytes Reviews