Jamie Craig - Writing on the Edge of Erotic Romance

Sticks and Stones

Complementing each other on the dance floor isn't enough to form a relationship. Is it?

It's 1953, and Hollywood is booming with extravagant musicals. Coming off a string of hits with MGM, Paul Dunham couldn't be hotter. Hoping to capitalize on Paul's popularity, the studio announces its attention to pair him with the latest actor to make a splash, Jack Wells. It seems like a match made in heaven, except for the fact that Paul can't stand Jack. He hates the way Jack acts, and he hates Jack's blue eyes, and he especially hates the fact that Jack is one of the most talented dancers he has ever met.

Jack, however, doesn't hate Paul. In fact, everything Paul does fascinates him. After their first meeting, Jack is determined to win Paul over, and he won't back down until Paul admits that the two of them are perfect partners...in every way...

4 1/2 stars from Carole, Rainbow Reviews:...potent brew of nostalgia and sensuality in Sticks and Stones. The story is deeply textured and richly characterized. By exploiting the eroticism of NOT touching, the power of need that cannot be fulfilled, the reader is entwined into the plot of the novel, into the lives and hearts of these two men and their supporting friends. Your heart aches for what they can never have.

From Cassie, Joyfully Reviewed:...With lots of conflict, a great setting, and a satisfying ending, you canít go wrong with Sticks and Stones.

EXCERPT

After Sweet and Jeff disappeared, Paul turned back to Jack. "Let me see that tapping pattern again."

Jack came up to his side, their hips brushing against each other. Though Jack had made it look effortless, the faint scent of his sweaty skin drifted to Paul's nose, reminding him of every sinuous movement from earlier. He had to force his focus downward, watching Jack's feet as he did the routine in half-time.

"Trick is keeping the ankle loose." Jack lifted his leg and rotated the joint to demonstrate. "It helps maintain your momentum."

"Yes," Paul said dryly, "I know how to tap. Are these steps you made up yourself, or something somebody showed you?"

"All mine. Except for the cramp roll variation. Got that from an old shoe man, back in England."

Paul spun in a tight circle, surveying the wide room. There was only the one chair, the piano, and the piano bench. Paul liked to work with props. Liked to figure out how each step would look in the middle of the set. He had been in a few movies that featured newspaper rooms, so he knew this set would be cluttered. Unfortunately, it wasn't anything he could reenact in that room. More annoying than that, he could feel Jack practically breathing over his shoulder, full of steps and suggestions.

"All right. It looks good. Do it again at half-speed, while I go through my steps."

It was easier to follow Jack the second time, and even easier the third. Jack had a tendency to improvise without warning, but Paul kept a close enough eye on him to quickly learn his tells. A slight drop in his shoulder. A glance sideways to see what Paul was doing. A wicked smirk, as if he was trying to catch Paul out. The urge to smack the smirk off his face, even here, was great. Paul funneled that fire straight back into his dancing.

On the fourth pass, Jack hit his handstand off-center of the seat. His grip slid off the edge, sending him twisting at an awkward angle. Paul barely leapt out of his way before he hit the floor, but Jack still managed to catch Paul's leg, forcing him to stumble.

They fell in a heap of limbs, Jack's shoe catching him in the back. His temper flared with the pain, but he bit back his angry shout. It had been an accident. Just because Jack had him on edge didn't mean he needed to be a complete jerk. He tried to roll away, but Jack still had a hold of him.

"What the hell happened there?" Paul asked.

"Looks like I missed my mark." Jack didn't sound as frustrated as Paul felt. In fact, he sounded a little too pleased. "This mark's more than a mite better, though." With that, his hips pressed forward, the unmistakable line of his cock digging against Paul's body.

Paul reacted without thought, shoving Jack away and crab-walking backward until he was out of Jack's reach. He jumped to his feet and increased the distance between them. His nerves were on fire, and his own cock was starting to thicken. The fact that Jack remained sprawled across the floor didn't help. It didn't help at all.

"Don't touch me."

Grinning, Jack rolled onto his back, folding his hands behind his head as a cushion. It stretched his lean body out to even leaner proportions and pulled his pants taut over his erection. "Was just an accident, mate. One of the fortunate kind, if you ask me."

"Somehow, I'm having a really hard time believing that." Paul settled behind the piano. Partially, so he didn't have to see Jack, and partially so Jack couldn't see him. "A real hard time."

"You should let me do something about it then. We got all morning, just the two of us. Be a shame to waste it."

Paul scowled, his fingers brushing across the keys. "We have all morning to dance. If you want to dance, get up. I don't have time for anything else."

Jack's sharp kick back to his feet hinted at none of his earlier clumsiness. "Maybe that's your problem."

"No, you're my problem." He played a short series of notes, sliding up the scale. "So no more accidents."

Jack's taps clipped ever closer until his firm weight slid onto the bench next to him. "If that's the case, why'd you let the piano player go if you didn't want me all to yourself?"

Paul stared at him. "Are you serious? You really think I was angling to get you alone? We are rehearsing, Jack. This is rehearsal. Not a meat market."

It was Jack's turn to run up and down a scale, the higher register grating down Paul's spine. "I think you're wound so tight, Twinkles, you don't know what the difference is anymore."

"I don't know the difference between a rehearsal and a meat market? It's real easy, Jack. Though the fact you don't know the difference might tell me all I need to know about your current success."

Jack's nostrils flared. "I worked my ass off to get here. Don't you fucking think otherwise."

"Then get off your ass and prove it. Because so far, I haven't really seen anything to make me change my mind."

"Except taking care of Sweet for you."

Paul snorted. "I took care of Sweet for me. You did what you're paid to do, which is follow my lead. Anybody in the chorus line could have done that. So come on. Change my mind."

Jack was too warm, his scent mocking Paul with every inhalation. Paul's control already felt brittle, ready to snap at the slightest provocation. All he wanted was for the bastard to get the hell off the piano bench. Away from him. Back to merry old England would be best, but Paul would take what he could get.

"Well, can't say that following your lead isn't fun." He slid away, shoes clicking as he returned to the chair and set it upright again. "Gives me your best angle, after all."

"What makes you think you can talk to me like that?" As soon as Paul uttered the question, he regretted it. He didn't need Jack's answer. "Most guys would knock you flat on your back for less."

An insolent gleam in Jack's blue eyes made Paul's hands ball into fists. "Because you didn't knock me flat on my back the first time I talked to you like that."

"So, you're saying that from now on I shouldn't ignore my impulses to punch you flat?"

"You're welcome to try."

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