Authors: Z. A. Maxfield
Tags: #Fiction, #Erotica, #Romance, #Adult, #General, #LGBT Multicultural
Z. A. Maxfield
This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. Loose Id® e-books are for sale to adults ONLY, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.
Z. A. Maxfield
This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © March 2009 by Z. A. Maxfield
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Editor: Barbara Marshall
Cover Artist: P. L. Nunn
For Beverly Jensen, the Happy Assassin, who loved Rory and Yamane first and was determined that I tell their story.
It was a grim fact of life, Rory discovered as he wiped mustard off his hands with a napkin, that the further you disappeared into rural America, the less strange it seemed when you talked to your food. He’d just finished having a conversation with a gas station corn dog.
Sure, he ate it while leaning up against his car in the back parking lot of one of the endless Stuckey truck stops along I-40, but still, talking to food was talking to food.
Rory returned to the driver’s seat with a package of crumb doughnuts and the grim determination of someone preparing to perform a complicated Cossack dance. It wasn’t easy folding his over-six-foot frame into the Corona, and after four or five hundred miles, it completely lost its charm. Eyes on the prize, old son, he said to himself. Destiny is something to be grabbed at with both hands. She would be in Long Beach waiting for him. If he had the faintest inkling that this might not be the sanest episode of his life, he dismissed it curtly.
The artist Ran Yamane, the love of Rory’s life, who created the visionary Sacred Princess Celendrianna, and also the adorable Snoggs characters of the cartoon of the same name, was in Long Beach, California, where at last he could meet her in person. Yamane’s characters were the touchstone of a fanciful adolescence and the unofficial immunization against a painful year recovering from one of the worst natural disasters on US soil. They were far more real to him than his work at the Ragin’ Cajun Bar and Grille and his classes at LSU. In his uncomplicated way of looking at things, he’d lost his house and all his worldly possessions, but that was no reason to give up his dreams. And when he dreamed, he lived in Ran Yamane’s world.
That’s how Rory knew it was destiny and not chance when he read the Internet blog that announced an illness would prevent the creator of the manga, Prince of Flames, from attending this year’s Anime Expo in Long Beach, California. In her place would be the much-anticipated Western debut of the reclusive Ran Yamane, artist and storyteller extraordinaire.
2 Z. A. Maxfield
Ran Yamane. Even the sound of her name was like an alarm ringing in his heart. With each mile, with every lousy Stuckey truck-stop sandwich, he was that much closer to worshipping at the feet of his idol.
Rory’s mother had been supportive of her son’s wild plan, asking him over and over had he hit his head on something.
He’d left the former FEMA trailer with the promise that he wouldn’t do something so stupid he’d bring shame to all their ancestors. Although privately he wondered if that would even be possible. His boss, the owner of the Ragin’ Cajun, simply threw a wet and stinky bar rag at him as he made his all too hasty departure and said, “Don’t you never come back here.” Through it all, Rory’s unflagging optimism and good cheer seemed, even to his closest friends, to be partly pathological in nature. His Grandpère Claude summed it up with his usual bluntness: “That boy has gone three times around the river bend, and he’s not coming back anytime soon.”
Let them laugh, thought Rory, as he practically flew his little car and all his worldly possessions toward his destiny. By New Mexico, he imagined how he’d meet Miss Yamane; by Arizona, he knew without a doubt that he could make her love him as much as he loved her. By the time he crossed the California border, he could see himself making her his on a moonlit, West Coast beach. After nearly fifteen hundred miles, he saw the outcome clearly, and all that was left was to convince his woman, Ran Yamane, that he was her man and she’d just better come with him right now.
The first hint Rory had that things might not go the way he planned was the fact that, as far as he could tell, there was not one parking space left in Southern California. After paying eight dollars to park almost where he started, he slung his messenger bag over his shoulder and walked the long way back to the convention center only to find that there was a two-hour wait to get in. At least he had his cash, his laptop, his iPod, and the portfolio where he kept his carefully collected original drawings by his favorite artists.
In it, he even had one of Yamane’s Snoggs, beautifully rendered, which he’d purchased from eBay. He had spent his last dime on that one and had eaten nothing but leftover hush puppies from his customers’ trash baskets at lunch for an entire week. Rory idled away his time in the line rehearsing what he’d say when he finally met his fantasy woman.
After finally getting his badge, he went to a florist across the street from the convention center to purchase a bouquet of flowers. While waiting, Rory consulted the brochure regarding times and locations of different Expo events. A leaf of yellow paper placed inside as a last-minute addendum told him what he needed to know.
Ran Yamane, creator of the Snoggs series and Celendrianna, Sacred Princess, would be signing autographs on the convention center floor in the Ravix Comi booth from one o’clock to five o’clock, after which she would participate in a discussion of sacred love in classic manga in one of the exhibit rooms. And after that, thought Rory, in an enviably single-Drawn Together
minded pursuit of his dreams, she’ll be getting her lips bruised in the moonlight by your s
As Rory entered the convention center at last, he chanced to see his reflection in the glass doors. Though he could have wished to make a finer presentation, he felt he didn’t look too bad for all that. The dark red hair for which he’d earned the name Rory was on the longish side, but well trimmed and swung about his head when he moved, catching the light.
He wore nice trousers and a white shirt that was as clean as it could be with the sleeves rolled up in the summer heat. His shoes were a little iffy, as they were a pair of plaid Vans that he enjoyed wearing for the brightness of their colors, but presumably Yamane would be sitting behind a desk and she wouldn’t see them right off the bat.
As for his face, he had no way to judge but guessed others who saw him might have said they’d never seen a more earnest-looking boy in the flesh. If anything, that’s what made him look younger than his twenty-three years. He was the first to admit that four years at university and one in graduate school hadn’t done much to add sophistication thus far, and it wasn’t likely to happen in the next few minutes either.
To Ran Yamane, Rory looked to be exactly what he was: a completely deluded boy carrying a lovely bouquet of stargazer lilies and white roses. Which is why, when Rory finally arrived near enough to the front of the line to get an autograph, Yamane put his head in his hands and said, “Oh, crap, not another one.” 4 Z. A. Maxfield
Rory stood tapping his foot in line behind about a hundred others who wanted an autograph from the singular Ran Yamane. His trip to California and the complete dedication it required to drive fifteen hundred miles in three days made it the first opportunity he had to relax and just enjoy the pleasant sensation of inertia.
In fact, in the fragrant, floral-scented bubble of space he was occupying, Rory took immense pleasure in imagining the moment when he would first see his idol. He imagined her shy surprise, and perhaps her humble acceptance of his floral tribute. From there, he would ask her to autograph his book and then his line drawing from eBay.
Rory was certain she would remark on his accent, because thirty or forty minutes away from the bayou simply everyone did. While it made an excellent icebreaker, he didn’t like the way people thought it made him slow. On the other hand, it never failed to interest women, whether they thought he was slow or not.
What that said about women, he didn’t know, but he hadn’t been too proud to use it to his advantage on more than one occasion. He could simply say, “Please allow me,” in New York City and open a door for a woman, and he wouldn’t have to look for a hotel room for the night.
Behind his floral tribute, Rory was wondering just what he would do to attract Ran Yamane’s attention when he reached the front of the line. He could see her from behind; her long black hair hung in a loose braid down her back. She sat at a desk on a large platform three steps off the ground, flanked by two men standing almost at attention. She faced away from the line of autograph seekers. She chatted briefly with each person as she signed her name; then they moved on. Rory could see she wore some sort of long black coat with the collar turned up, so he was tormented by his inability to catch even a brief glimpse of her face.
At last his turn came, and one of the men flanking her motioned for him to come up.
He mounted the three stairs and went to stand before her. He took a deep breath and held his floral tribute out with a low bow. In the dark recesses of his mind, over the pounding of his heart, he thought he heard someone murmur something that sounded like “another one.” When at last he raised his head to look at the woman of his dreams, he froze with his mouth gaping open like a fish. Before him, with his arms folded demurely across his chest, was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, but still, a man. Nothing less than a man, with a pitying expression on his face.
“You thought I was a woman, didn’t you?” he asked. “I get that a lot.” The men next to Yamane chuckled, and one motioned with his head toward a pile of lovely floral tributes in a heap on another table, which was also stacked with stuffed animals and heart-shaped candy boxes like a vast pyramid made out of the dashed hopes of countless would-be admirers.
Rory looked at his flowers. He looked back at Ran Yamane. As if the last fifteen hundred miles were a film going backward, he saw the whole thing slipping away from him.