A Huge WelcomeToday I welcome my friend and fellow author Maryn Blackburn to my blog. I am very excited for her - this is Maryn's first published novel and it looks simply delightful! I wish her all the luck in the world.
Thanks for having me, Evelyn. (My mom would be so pleased I remembered my manners.) I'm Maryn Blackburn, author of Brick by Brick, a ménage à trois novel published by Loose Id. Here's what it's about:
A quick summary of Brick by Brick:
Natalie and her husband James, who runs a Tucson masonry firm, are happy enough despite business being in a continued slump. After nearly a decade, their sex life has less spark than it once did. They've idly talked about a threesome, although they cannot imagine who (or how) they could ask. It's a spicy fantasy until the night they attend a party where handsome actor Gage Strickland needs another guy to rescue him from his adoring fans, all of them women.
After two bottles of first-rate wine, their fantasy becomes a reality, but not the one Natalie imagined. She is not the object of two adoring men, one of them faceless and conveniently disappearing when the loving's done. Instead, the other man is the gorgeous Gage, he's the one in the middle--and what does that make James?
Because she loves her husband, she accepts his new reality. Their intimacy is refreshed, their needs like newlyweds' as the days pass waiting for Gage's call, until they can only conclude he never will. They were a one-night stand.
Gage does return, seeking not just sex but a relationship, although he has no idea how they work. He has his reasons for choosing sex with strangers in the past, since they've been eager to do what Gage wants for the bragging rights. Now he's inclined to leave at the first sign of trouble rather than working through it.
Tripped up by Gage, the ménage stumbles often but continues. Natalie soon fears her James prefers Gage over her. There's one thing Gage won't do in the bedroom, but is her willingness enough to hold onto her husband? Or will Gage sabotage the whole thing before they reach that point?
I hope I haven't told too much, but it's probably like telling you Dorothy makes it back from Oz. You know how it's going to play out, just not the details. Like Mom said, the adventure is in the journey, not the destination.
Oh, and the one question which will come up? Yes, Gage is based on a real actor, although it doesn't matter who. But know this: A book that starts out as the worst sort of fan fiction, imagining your life intersecting with an actor's and what might happen next, can become something richly complete and entirely free of him and yourself. I actually prefer Gage to the man he's based on, since I got to mold him. The actor refuses to let me do the same for him, as if he had the right to control his own life. Imagine that!
Excerpt from "Brick by Brick" by Maryn Blackburn
“You’re an actor too?” Gage sat straighter, his expression freshly attentive.
I rarely saw James flush with pride, not even when customers gushed about his artistic masonry. “Just TV ads.” He drank. “None lately.” He lifted himself from the recliner with a little groan, then added another log to the fire and prodded it to life.
“They still show his cotton ads,” I said. “Putting on a T-shirt. Taking a pair of jeans off the clothesline and smelling them, and the camera goes back and you can see there must be hundreds of pairs. Flopping onto this big bed and the sheets puff up around him. My sister thought that one was dirty, the expression on his face.”
Gage was a good audience, listening more than talking, laughing a lot when I blurted whatever was in my head without thinking first. Time glided past rapidly. Gage moved to refill my glass; I wasn’t sure that was such a good idea. I asked James with my eyes if I was doing all right.
“Go ahead, Nat,” he said. I knew that lazy smile. He wasn’t drunk, just uninhibited, loose to the nth degree. Some of our best sex included that look—and some of James’s best TV ads did too. “It’s a party, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” Gage filled my glass halfway before the bottle emptied. “A good party.”
“With only three, I think we have to call it an intimate gathering,” James said.
Gage’s smile dazzled. “Do I open the next one?”
What the hell. “If you like your gatherings really intimate,” I said.
“I think she wants you to stay,” James said, laughing. “Open it, already.”
The cork squeaked out. “See if you taste layers of fruit.” Gage sounded a little buzzed too.
James sipped, rolling the wine in his mouth with a frown of concentration.
“Taste it? Blackberries and raspberries? Kind of voluptuous and round. God, listen to me, one bottle and I turn into a pompous wine asshole. Anyway, it’s really ripe and full-bodied. Like Natalie.” He held his glass up, admiring the color.
Or toasting me? No. Ridiculous.
James raised his glass as well. “She’s something in that dress, isn’t she?” At Gage’s nod, he added, “You ought to see her out of it.”
“She’d do it, I bet, if we did.” James loosened his tie and pulled it off, carefully folding the silk and placing it in his jacket pocket. “Come on.”
“Too bad I’m not wearing a tie. Guess I’m out of the running.”
“You could take off the jacket. You might even…unbutton your collar.” James peeled off his own jacket and unbuttoned his shirt fully. “Come on, do something.”
Laughing and shaking his head, Gage undid the tiny button closing the collar band at his throat.
James stroked my back lightly while Gage tossed his raw silk jacket aside and unbuttoned his shirt’s next two buttons.
My husband slipped his shirt off and let it drop to the floor. For the thousandth time I admired his broad shoulders, the golden down on his chest, the delicate pink nipples, the flat belly.
“Topless. Pretty wild.” James sipped his wine. “Come on, Gage. If we both do it, she will. What do you think?”
“I think,” Gage said, “I’d better call a cab.”
“Don’t.” James picked up his shirt and threaded one meaty arm into a sleeve, then the other. “It’s just—I don’t know how to do this.”
“Do what?” His eyes narrowed to slits, Gage watched James with suspicion anyone could see.
James drained his glass in two gulps. “French courage,” he said. “Damn, that’s good. Ask you to join us. She’s—we’ve—talked about another person a lot, and this seemed perfect.” His face glowed pink. “I’m a little high, or I wouldn’t have done anything. Or maybe I would have, but more gracefully. In a Lafite-Rothschild kind of way.”
His crooked grin melted me, as usual. Gage’s expression softened too.
James poured himself a dollop of wine. “Excellent wine, really, too good to take the blame. It wasn’t the wine talking; it was me.” James shrugged. “I’m sorry. You can button your shirt. That’s the end of it.”
“You mean,” Gage said, addressing the wineglass he rotated in his paired hands, “that you both want to add another guy?” He turned his gaze on me. “You meant it about two men?”
“Daydream number 1A, useful during masturbation, subtitled films, and traffic jams,” I said.
Smiling, Gage turned to James, whose shirt still hung open. “And you don’t mind, another man with you and your wife?”
“I don’t number my daydreams,” James said, “but it’s up there. With real-world conditions.”
“Sure,” Gage said. “Safe sex. Time to talk travel and transfusions and every partner we ever had. God, I hate this part.”
We weren’t the risk. There must be millions of women who’d forget boyfriends or husbands to have sex with Gage Strickland. He could easily have had hundreds or thousands. Had he been safe every single time? “Married forever, faithful the whole time,” I said. “What about you?”
“Now I wish we’d gone to my hotel. See, in a couple weeks I start a movie, and they make you get a physical first. To insure the production? Last time, there was some kind of paperwork screwup, a nightmare. So I got copies of everything, for in case. I have written proof that I’m healthy. Want to go see it?”
“Yes,” James said.
“Okay. Are you good to drive, after the wine? I’m not sure I would be. We could still call a cab.”
“Safe isn’t just about sex,” I said. Were we really going to do this? The possibility of sex with a movie star was bizarre, checking his papers surreal.
James caught my eye and raised an eyebrow, silently asking. I gave him my opinion in that near-telepathic way long-married couples use, without saying a word.
He beamed first at me, then at Gage. “Never mind. That you’re willing tells us you’re healthy.”
“I am. When I was young, I wasn’t always careful. I never got anything, but only an idiot trusts luck in the long run.”
James took the lead, easing me to the center of the sofa. He gestured for Gage to remain at one end, where he sat with his hands folded, prim as an altar boy awaiting his cue. Was he hiding the stirrings of a fledgling erection?
The kiss was slow and deep. My hands explored James’s back and the upper part of his buttocks. At first, I would have liked to see Gage Strickland’s face, but I forgot about him by the time James pulled back.
“God, you’re sexy,” James said, leaning me back against the center cushion and nodding at Gage. With a half smile playing on his lips, Gage hesitated a moment, then touched his lips to mine.
Gage was a different kind of kisser, every bit as good as James. Where Jamie’s kisses revealed urgency before sex, and the languid aftermath, Gage’s was tender, unhurried, more for the pleasure of the kiss itself.
I stroked his back with one hand while the other squeezed Jamie’s hand. Could he feel my excitement, my gratitude, my anxiety? Maybe we should have left this an act of the imagination.
Gage paused, smiled at me for a moment, kissed me again, then eased away. “He’s right. You’re sexy.”
“Natalie likes the room pretty dark before she’ll undress. How about just the fire? Set your glass someplace safe.”
Naked in front of Gage Strickland, who’d done nude scenes with size 2 movie stars? Colossal Cave wasn’t dark enough.
James flicked the three-way lamp to medium, bright, then off. He took his and my wineglasses to the mantel and added another log to the fire.
I watched Gage put his glass up, a little away from ours, then pull off his shirt. In the dancing firelight, a jagged scar on the side of his belly caught my attention. Without thinking, I stood up, my fingertips tracing the rough braids of skin above his belt as if I had the right.
“Car wreck,” he said. “It’s so ugly.”
James lifted my hand away. He brought it to his lips, kissing my damp palm. He tongued it while he let his fingers run down my back. Although the room was warm, it gave me a little chill. His hand lingered on my bottom until I pushed my backside toward his touch a little, demanding more. Instead his fingers walked up my zipper.
I knew what was coming and froze, petrified.
Interview with the Characters:
Interviewer: What is it that drew you all toward a threesome?
Natalie: Have you seen Gage? My god, the man's handsome. I remember feeling aroused the first time I saw him, although at the time James was the only one I I thought would benefit.
James: That would have been great, but what happened was better. Who doesn't get a rush from something new? Plus Natalie's right. Gage has the kind of bone structure the camera loves, and he takes care of himself. So at first it was just animal attraction.
Gage: Shut up, both of you. Polished rock in a fancy box.
Interviewer: Oh, you're modest, then?
Gage: No, I'm kind of vain, but I know physical attraction only goes so far. If you're a handsome son of a bitch who's selfish or mean, any relationship is doomed. Well, unless you're happy with a door mat glad to have the mud off your shoes. None of the outside matters. It's who you are inside.
James: "It's who you are inside"--and I've been inside. Very nice.
James: Relax. They know already. That's part of why they want to read about it.
Natalie: Looks are for the early part, before you have more to go on. The two men I've been in love with? I don't even see them as they really look, which is a shame. The fact that I love them makes them attractive to me. I'm going to want these two when they're losing their hair and sporting beer bellies, I imagine.
Gage: Yeah? Not that I plan to get fat or lose my hair, but who does?
James: I do. I couldn't believe how a few weeks off equals a few pounds on. I should be laying brick for the exercise alone.
Natalie: Or giving up beer.
Gage: Like that's going to happen.
Interviewer: What are some of the challenges of a three-way relationship?
James: People don't get it, or they don't approve. With strangers, you try not to care. Fuck 'em, right? But you can't adopt that attitude with family. My twin brother was a total dick at first. And the people you work with look at you funny, although since I own the business, they don't say anything. They may have to accept it, but they don't have to like it.
Gage: I really worried my career would take a hit. What if they only sent my agent scripts with a bisexual or gay character? But so far, both the industry and my fans seem to be all right with it. And the press gave me fifteen minutes of the spotlight then moved on to somebody else. There's no shortage of celebrities doing shocking things, huh?
Natalie: Being in a committed relationship probably helps everyone get over it. People approve of love.
James: It's pretty hard to come down on the other side of that. It's like opposing good health.
Interviewer: So being in love means it's been smooth sailing, for the most part?
Natalie: Hardly. Three people means three times the problems. Jealousy, that was a big one for me. This new guy's handsome and rich and not the same old thing. Just try to compete with that.
Gage: I didn't even know it was a competition, much less that she thought I was ahead.
James: I never stopped loving you, Nat. You know that.
Natalie: Well, now I do. At the time, I wasn't so sure I wanted to share you.
Interviewer: And now you do?
Natalie: And now I can.
James: I'm not the linchpin here. Nobody is. We all share ourselves with the other two.
Gage: Don't ask me to share the dinosaur mug. That's mine and Natalie's.
Interviewer: There's an inside joke here?
Gage: Yes. Can I?
Natalie: Go ahead.
James: I don't know what either one of you is talking about.
Gage: So listen and you will. There's this cup, with a dinosaur attached to the bottom, inside. It's cute.
James: Oh, that. It's juvenile.
Gage: Which is why you never use it. So Natalie's always the last one who used it, and that's why I like to choose it. Which is also juvenile.
Natalie: But sweet. It really is. Why don't you say things like that, James?
James: I don't have to. I love you, and I buy you waffles.
Interviewer: Another inside joke?
James: Yeah, but it won't be funny to anybody else. Let it go.
Natalie: Good idea, but maybe we should go out to breakfast.
Gage: Fruit plate for me. My agent says I'm getting fat.
James: He's wrong.
Interviewer: Your images on the cover suggest you're all in great shape. Any workout or diet tips?
James: Lay brick for six to ten hours a day, five days a week, sometimes six, and eat whatever you want. Also, I was sucking it in a little.
Natalie: Keep your curves covered in dark clothes and hide between two guys who are buff?
Gage: Oh, stop. Natalie's body is how women are supposed to be shaped, as round and full as a great wine. Look, she's blushing. My tip is eat less than you want and put yourself in the hands of the most sadistic personal trainer you can find a couple months before filming starts.
Natalie: And get yourself an agent who knows you're a pro who will be in shape when it's needed?
Gage: Yeah, that, when your contract is up.
Interviewer: So, back to the threesome. What smaller problems does a ménage present?
Natalie: Even with a big bed, somebody's in the middle and can't control how much of the covers is on them. Usually it's me.
James: Poor Natalie, suffering so much. Here's one: It's hard to agree on what you're going to do, whether it's a movie or what to make for dinner. Pleasing three is way harder than two. We've given up on trying to pick the restaurant. Gage does that.
Gage: I'm still trying to strong-arm them into letting me set up a vacation. They don't have passports, which puts a crimp in it. Small problems? There's never enough coffee for three. I always need to make another pot, but then we waste it. Half-pots never come out right.
James: You suffer nearly as much as Nat with her covers.
Natalie: Tragic. I'm really aware--we all are--how trivial our problems are. I don't want us to seem all smug fussing over the blankets and coffee and vacations when people face real crises every day with courage and grace. We know we're so very lucky.
Gage: See why we love her?
James: How could I not?