FREE Gay Fiction Excerpt: Once Upon a Castle by Ryan Field
Here’s a free sample of my newest release, Once Upon a Castle. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a purchase link. It’s available in print or digital.
This particular excerpt is Chapter 8. I don’t think there are any serious spoilers with this. This chapter is really an introduction to one of the more important characters at the end of the story, a guy named Dusty Rhodes.
It had been raining in Southern Louisiana for 3 days in a row and Dusty Rhodes was just about fed up with it. He’d been cleaning and painting and preparing Magnolia Castle for the guests who would be renting it for the month of May and he’d been told by his bossy brother in New York to make everything as perfect as possible this time. The only thing Dusty hated more than taking orders from his brother was having his brother criticize him for not doing a good job. So he’d worked even harder than usual to make the old place look good, and he knew they needed the money from these guests.
Dusty and his mother…Big Mamma…lived there alone now and they never would have been able to maintain Magnolia Castle without leasing it out to guests. Dusty’s brother in New York who was in charge of family financial affairs had made it clear he wasn’t going to pay for any upkeep out of the family money. His brother agreeing to let them turn the property into a business and rent it out to guests had taken a good deal of convincing and Dusty did not want to listen to his brother tell him it had been a bad idea in the first place. So far, they’d made enough money to pay all the bills, pay the staff, and keep the house running, with a nice little profit.
As far as Dusty was concerned, there were certain days his brother could have sold the place and he wouldn’t have cared. It was a real dilemma sometimes. Dusty was already in his mid-30s and he’d begun to realize his life had been slipping away all this time and he’d never realized it. If it hadn’t been for Big Mamma, Dusty probably would have left home years ago, but he’d promised their father he would take care of Big Mamma for as long as she lived. And no matter how frustrating it was, Dusty intended to keep that promise. Even though he was over 30 and a closeted gay man who had never had sex, he remained devoted to Big Mamma.
It certainly wasn’t easy at times, especially that night. “Big Mamma, I have to get ready to leave now. Your feet will just have to wait.” It was a Monday night and he always gave Big Mamma a foot massage on Monday nights to sooth her bunions. He’d spent the day scrubbing all the hardwood floors in the mansion and he had to go meet those two guys from New York at the train station. They had maids to do general cleaning, but Dusty knew only he could get it perfect with a good old fashioned deep cleaning.
“Well that’s just silly, Dusty,” Big Mamma said. She was beached on her lounge chair in front of the TV, with a big bag of chips to her right and a great big bottle of sugary soda to her left. All 250 pounds of her seemed to be settled in for the night. “Them other people got here okay on their own. Why in the name of God do you have to go pick up these other two now? Can’t they find their way here alone?” She spoke with a thick southern country accent and when she said words like “can’t” it sounded like, “Kay’nt.”
This is when he would just agree with Big Mamma. It was far easier than starting an argument. The woman loved to argue and he wasn’t in the mood. The two women from New York had each arrived separately at around 6 o’clock that evening, and they’d gone directly to their rooms for the rest of the night. He scratched the back of his head and said, “Beats the hell out of me. Maybe these two really can’t find their way around alone.” He sometimes spoke with a thick southern accent, too, but he only did that because he knew the guests expected it.
“Well I guess you’re right, Dusty,” said Big Mamma. “We do need the money. What’re them two women like?”
Dusty grabbed his jacket and keys and shrugged. “They’re good lookin’ and they dress nice. One is older and one is younger, but that’s all I know. They both said they were tired and they both went to their rooms. I’m sure I’ll find out more tomorrow.”
“Which rooms did you give them?”
“I wasn’t sure which rooms to give them so I let them choose. The older one picked the big room that used to be granddaddy’s and the younger girl picked the smaller room that overlooks the rose garden.”
“Well I hope the other two don’t mind the rooms that are left,” she said. Dusty and Big Mamma never used the second floor bedrooms anymore. First, Big Mamma couldn’t get up and down the grand staircase because she was too old and too big, and second, they didn’t want to mingle with the guests. They kept to themselves in a smaller wing of the main house that was located right off the kitchen. It was actually an add-on to the back of the house Dusty’s granddaddy had built in the 1980s for himself so Dusty’s parents could take over the main part of the house themselves. It was very spacious and Dusty didn’t mind at all. They each had a large bedroom, their own private kitchen, a living room and dining area, and two separate bathrooms.
Dusty just shrugged and headed toward the back door. “Well, I guess that’s their problem now. No one told me to reserve special rooms for anyone. I’ll see you later, Big Mamma. I don’t want to show up late getting them.”
“You drive safe now, hear,” Big Mamma said. Then she dipped her plump little fingers into the bag of chips and glanced at the game show she’d been watching on TV.
The train station wasn’t far from the house and it only took Dusty 10 minutes to get there. Although the two women who had already arrived had rented their own cars, there was a reason why the two guys took the train. It wasn’t odd for guests to take the train from the airport. It was advertised that whenever people rented Magnolia Castle they got the use of either a vintage 1965 Cadillac Coup de Ville, or the classic 1959 Lincoln Continental. The guests all thought the old cars had been in the family for years and they were part of the package, but that wasn’t the case at all. Dusty’s brother bought them because he thought it would be a draw to lease the place out for more money. And it worked, too, especially with the New Yorkers. They couldn’t wait to drive the old cars the minute they arrived.
Dusty just wished it would stop raining. It had only been raining lightly when he left the house, and now it was coming down the devil and pitchforks. This would make it hard for him to see them if they weren’t waiting out on the front steps of the train station. It was small town, and the train station was a red brick building that wasn’t any bigger than the general store on Main Street. He was driving the Cadillac that night, a periwinkle blue Coupe de Ville with blue leather interior. The car ran as if it were brand new, except the horn didn’t work. He’d been meaning to get that fixed but he kept forgetting about it. He would rather have picked them up in his brand new Dodge Ram, but his brother in New York always said he should pick them up in one of the old cars so they would get the experience of true southern charm the moment they arrived. Dusty thought that was hogwash, but he did what he was told because he didn’t want anything negative getting back to Rusty in New York.
He arrived at the station at 8 o’clock sharp, which was the exact time he’d been told to arrive. They were already sitting outside under the porch, glancing back and forth, so he pulled right up to the steps as close as he could get and lowered the passenger window. He leaned sideways and asked, “Ya’ll here for Magnolia Castle?”
They were both wearing black leather jackets in different designs and one of them leaned toward the window and said, “Yes. Are you Dusty Rhodes? We were told to meet a man named Dusty Rhodes.”
Dusty smiled and nodded. “That’s me. Good old Dusty Rhodes.” They looked to be about his age and they were both lean and had similar haircuts. The one wearing the longer black leather coat looked a little more delicate than the other and he had steel blue eyes that looked as if they were made out of crystal.
Dusty jumped out of the car so he could put their luggage in the trunk and said, “Ya’ll get inside the car and wait for me. I’ll take care of this. These old cars are nice but they don’t have none of them electronic buttons to pop the trunk. But this here is a real smooth ride.”
When Dusty climbed into the car again he found the one with the longer jacket up front, and the one with the shorter jacket in the backseat. He turned and extended his hand. “I’m Dusty Rhodes and it’s nice to meet ya’ll. I hope you had a nice trip.”
The one with the short jacket in the back spoke first. At a second glance, his hair was lighter. “Well I’m Shawn Davidson and this is Barry Nelson. It’s nice to meet you, Dusty. It was a long trip, but uneventful.”
Dusty smiled. He loved when the New York types used big words like uneventful. He would have just said it was boring. “Well that’s good to hear.” He reached back and shook Shawn’s hand first, and then he turned and shook Barry’s. For such a refined looking guy, that Barry had a nice firm handshake and he sure was cute. He had a feeling Barry had a nice firm, butt, too. Dusty had been so horny lately he was ready to jump on a tree and play leap frog. He’d never had sex with a man and all he had was internet porn. It wasn’t easy to have gay sex where he lived, he was still in the closet, and he lived with a powerful force like Big Mamma. It was staring to get to him.
When they were back on the road heading toward Magnolia Castle, Barry said, “I sure hope the weather gets better.”
“Oh, it will,” Dusty said. “No need to fret about it none.”
The guy in the back, Shawn, laughed and said, “I promise. I won’t fret.”
Dusty knew Shawn was making fun of his southern accent and his words, but Dusty didn’t care. He was only speaking this way because he knew these New Yorkers found it amusing. It was easier, and more profitable, to let them think he was just a dumb country boy. Besides, he didn’t care much about Shawn. He was more interested in Barry. When he spoke he didn’t sound different than any other man. It was hard to tell if he was gay or not, so Dusty decided to do a little harmless inquiry.
“So are you guys a couple?” Dusty asked. He figured it was easier to be up front, and to be slightly obtuse. “We love the homosexuals here in these parts.” He pronounced homosexuals as homo-sect-shulson purpose.
This time Barry laughed, but he seemed to be laughing with him instead of at him, as if he knew Dusty might be playing with them. “No, Dusty. We’re not a couple. We’re best friends. Shawn is married to a woman and he’s straight. I’m married to a guy named Mike, and I’m gay.”
“I see,” Dusty said. “So ya’ll just decided to take a break from your husband and wife and come down here for a month. That’s nice. Time away is always nice.”
Barry smiled. “Getting away in general is nice. New York is a great place to live, but sometimes it’s important to get away for some peace and quiet.”
“How about you, Dusty,” Shawn asked. “Are you married? Or do ya’ll prefer to be single?”
Dusty laughed. He would have to watch out for this Shawn dude. He was smarter than he looked. “Ah well,” Dusty said. “I guess you could say I just haven’t met the right one yet, is all. But I’m still lookin’.” He turned and sent Barry a smile.
Barry returned the smile and said, “Well I’m sure a big strong good looking man like you won’t have any trouble finding someone when you’re ready. I’ll bet the girls are lined up at your door.”
Dusty laughed again. “Well I don’t know about that, but I do my best.”
Barry just smiled, but Shawn said, “Oh, I’ll bet you do,” in a flat deadpan tone.
When they pulled up to the long narrow road that would lead them right to the front door of Magnolia Castle, Dusty slowed down and said, “I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to meet Big Mamma. She’s just dyin’ to meet ya’ll, but it’s past her bedtime. Big Mamma needs her rest.”
“Big Mamma?” Shawn asked. “This is like a Tennessee Williams play.”
“That’s what everyone calls her around here,” Dusty said. “They’ve been calling her Big Mamma since God was a boy.”
Dusty noticed Barry look back at Shawn and frown, as if he didn’t like Shawn’s attitude either. Then Barry turned to Dusty and spoke with a softer, friendlier voice. “I can’t wait to meet her, Dusty. I’m sure she’s lovely.”
“I’m not so sure about lovely,” Dusty said, trying not to laugh because Big Mamma was anything but lovely. “But she’s honest and you’ll know where you stand with her. I think she’ll really like you, Barry. She can spot good people a mile away.” He didn’t mention Shawn on purpose, knowing Shawn would get the hint.
Shawn didn’t reply, but Barry said, “Well thank you, Dusty. You’re sweet for such a big strong man.”
Shawn mumbled something that sounded like, “Oh brother,” but he said it under his breath and it was hard to make out. “Did you say something, Shawn?” Dusty asked. “I couldn’t quite make it out.”
“Oh no,” Shawn said, with a fake smile. “I was just admiring the trees.”
They came to a full stop right outside the front door and Dusty climbed out of the car first to get their bags from the trunk. Barry came around back to help him because it was raining so hard, and Shawn with the smart mouth walked up to the front door with his hands in his pockets. There was no way Dusty was going to allow Barry to help; this was his job. “Now you go up there and wait with Shawn,” he said. “I don’t want you getting all wet and messy. You’ve had a long trip today. I can handle this for you.”
“Well that’s just too bad,” Barry said. “I insist on helping you, Dusty.”
He was so damn cute Dusty couldn’t resist anything about him, so he handed him two suitcases from the trunk and then he picked up the rest. They each had two bags, one large and one small, and neither one was too heavy for Dusty. Besides, he was so excited at that moment just looking at Barry he could have picked Barry up and carried him up to his bedroom without breaking a sweat.
When they entered the house both Barry and Shawn glanced around and complimented everything they saw. Dusty admitted he wasn’t responsible for the way the house had been renovated and staged for guests. His brother in New York had hired professionals to do all this to make the old house marketable for guests. Before the renovations, the house hadn’t looked terrible, and he’d kept up with things as best he could with Big Mamma, but it wasn’t as homey and comfortable anymore. All the old wallpaper was gone and now all the walls were white with high glossy trim. The hardwoods floors had all been sanded and now they resembled the color of honey. Some of the original pieces of furniture were still in the house for effect, however, the majority had been replaced with newer traditional pieces and all were reproductions. Instead of the heavy velvet draperies that had once hung from the tall windows, there were white linen pinch pleat panels hung from new rods with brass rings.
“Everything is beautiful,” Barry said, as he glanced around the entrance hall. “And that stairway is like something from an old English manor home.”
The grand stairway had always been the main focal point of the house. “Well thank you,” Dusty said. “We try to maintain things to be as original as possible. My brother in New York usually handles all that and if he can’t he hires someone who can.”
Even Shawn had softened by then. He glanced around and said, “It’s fantastic. It’s ten times better than the photos on the Internet.”
“I’m glad you like it,” Dusty said. “And there is a lot of history here. We have a good deal of information in the library about Magnolia Castle’s past with regard to the anti-slavery society. Magnolia Castle, though, never really was a working farm like other southern plantations. So if you’re looking for that kind of glorified history you won’t find it here. My ancestors were all English gentlemen, all were against slavery, and they were never farmers. They had plenty of money and they didn’t need to work the land here. There were never slaves on this property either. This is also the reason why the house was named Magnolia Castle instead of Magnolia Plantation. My ancestors wanted to make that distinction clear, even back then.”
“Yes,” Shawn said. “Your brother explained a few things to us in New York.”
“Good,” Dusty said. “I hope you check out the library.”
“Well I’ll definitely check that out,” Shawn said.
“I think you’ll find it interesting,” Dusty said. He always made these historical facts clear to the guests because he wanted them to know his ancestors had not been slave owners.
Barry yawned. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s late and I’m exhausted. Can you take us to our rooms now?”
“Are you hungry?” Dusty asked. They provided the guests with two meals a day: breakfast and dinner. A cook prepared all the meals but Dusty could take them to the kitchen to make sandwiches or something else. The refrigerator was always stocked by one of the people who cleaned.
“I’m not hungry,” Shawn said.
“I’m not either,” said Barry. “We had something to eat earlier. I’m just tired now.”
“I’ll take you upstairs and you can each pick a room,” Dusty said. “There are only six bedrooms available now. But I’m sure you’ll like them all.”
“I don’t understand,” Shawn asked. “Why are there only six rooms left?”
“Those two women you’re sharing the place with arrived earlier and they chose their two rooms already,” Dusty said.
Shawn and Barry exchanged a glance and both spoke at the same time. “Two women?”
Dusty nodded. “Yes, one of them is older, but very attractive, and the other looks very young. Probably in her early 20s.”
Barry yawned again and said, “Let’s figure it out tomorrow, Shawn. Maybe June brought someone with her. I’m tired and I want to just go to bed now.”
Shawn seemed confused about something and Dusty had no idea what it was, but he could see Barry was exhausted and he decided to just take control himself. “I’m sure you’ll both like the rooms that are left. I’ll put Shawn in the room overlooking the pond, and I’ll put you, Barry, in the room with the white marble fireplace. I think it’s the most comfortable room in the house. It’s my favorite.”
Barry smiled at Dusty and picked up a suitcase. “Oh Dusty, I totally trust your judgment. You lead the way.”
“Well I guess it’s okay for tonight,” Shawn said, finally reaching down to pick up his suitcase. “But tomorrow I’m going to have a talk with these two women and I want to see their rooms. We’re the ones who told June about this house and we should get first choice of rooms. It’s only fair.”
Barry winked at Dusty. “C’mon, Shawn. We’ll deal with it in the morning. Dusty has been very kind and we don’t want to get him involved in this. I’m sure every room in the house is excellent.”
Shawn just grumbled something under his breath Dusty couldn’t make out, and it took all of Dusty’s self-control not to laugh out loud. Shawn certainly was grumpy, and he seemed to resent that Barry was so kind and complimentary. For the first time in a long time Dusty had a feeling he was going to enjoy the month of May. He hadn’t met anyone as sweet and adorable as Barry in a long time, and he was going to make sure he made Barry feel right at home.
After he showed them their rooms, he left them alone and headed toward the back staircase so he could check in on Big Mamma to see if she was okay. She was probably in bed by then, flat on her back snoring like a buzz saw. As he stepped down, he heard Shawn and Barry talking about something. He couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying but Shawn seemed to be mocking the way Barry had been talking to Dusty. At one point Shawn’s voice went up and he said, “I thought you were going to ask him to sleep in your room tonight.” Barry replied with, “Don’t be silly. He’s a sweet guy and I’m not here to have sex with anyone. I’m here to relax.” Shawn didn’t agree, and he said, “Well he was definitely trying to get into your pants tonight.” Barry just laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t even think he’s gay.” Shawn spoke even louder. “I’m just saying that you should watch out.” Then Barry said something softer Dusty couldn’t make out, and they said good night and Shawn returned to his room. As Dusty turned to head downstairs, he smiled and spoke in a stage whisper aloud. “This is too damn good to be true.”
Ellen’s Employees Call Her Secretly Mean
Apparently, people who work closely with Ellen DeGeneres claim she can be mean. One’s even saying that she’s “the meanest person alive.”
People are also saying she polices what other people eat. I guess she’s one of those vegan peoples who find meat disgusting.
Ellen hasn’t really responded to any of this, but she did post this to social media.
“This was my show staff’s planned spring break week,” she wrote. “I’ve asked them all to continue to stay home with their loved ones, and disconnect for a week. And I wish I hadn’t. I miss them. But I’ll be posting lots more next week when they’re back. Until then, enjoy today’s Safer-at-Home Spring Break 2020. Day 1.”
Here’s a link to read more.
“A wonderful story that I loved. The characters were well developed, and strong. Gus: A sweet young man. Doing something for all the wrong reasons. Craig: his boyfriend, he’ll go along with anything Gus say. Henry: Gus father a no nonsense man, who’s husband died last year. I enjoyed this story.”
What readers said about “Altered Parts”
“Best Gay Novel In Years. This story will stay with you and you will feel you know every character and the beauty of their home in the mountains of North Carolina.”
While the book is easily readable, it also addresses emotions stereotypes and relationships. I would have preferred it be 3 times as long and tragically most guys don’t find happy endings as depicted.. but in a short book, it provides food for thought, clarity and insight.. far more and better expressed than 99% of gay fiction . I don’t think it could have been done better.